High stakes – Matheson needs a top 16 in Shanghai to keep Olympic spot

Matheson shoots at Yuanshen Stadium.


Promising Kiwi Finn Matheson didn’t deny he was under pressure this week in Shanghai.

He’s back at a stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup for the first time in five years but, more critically, he knows he must finish in the top 16 if he wants to compete at his first Olympic Games later this summer.

The National Olympic Committee of New Zealand has set a high bar for sending archers – and athletes across all sports – to Paris 2024.

The recurve women’s quota place won by Nuala Edmundson at the Oceania continental qualifier in March was declined. And the men’s, which was officially secured by Ben McLean, is in limbo. Matheson must prove he’s competitive internationally – either here or next month in Yecheon – to keep it.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” he said during practice.

“I’m not expecting to finish [so high].”

But he’s got to at least give it a shot.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” said Finn.

“I might shoot out of my skin and even take down some really good archers here.”

There are 115 recurve men competing this week at Yuanshen Stadium in Pudong. To make the top 16, Matheson will need to first make the 64-athlete cut after qualifying, which will probably mean needing 660 points, and then win two matches.

Both would be career firsts – but, then again, Finn hasn’t competed on the circuit since 2019.

He was just 16 years old then.

“I will push myself to get a good result,” said Finn, adding that he feels he has matured as an archer over the last five seasons. “Back then, I didn’t realise how much pressure there was.”

“Or what skills were required to be on the line or how much effort everyone has put in to be here.”

“I can only be thankful that I can compete with all these archers.”


Since competing at the 2019 World Archery Youth Championships in Madrid, Matheson appeared at two stages of the Hyundai Archery World Cup – in Shanghai and Antalya – that same year.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic brought a long international dry spell to his career.

Out of desperation to be back on the shooting line, Finn enrolled in a month-long training course at the World Archery Excellence Centre in Lausanne in 2022.

It was a much-needed stint behind the bow for the promising young archer – and he credits his time there with a major jump in understanding.

“I learnt about how timing was such a big element in the shooting process. Moreover how the physiology of your shooting can affect your attitude,” he said.

Matheson shot a leg of the Asia Cup and the Pacific Games in 2023, winning the first international match of his career, against Vanuatu’s Francis Runa, at the latter.

Olympic dreams

Matheson is “incredibly excited” about the possibility of competing at the Olympics.

“It’s going to be huge,” he said.

“My heart starts racing when I am talking to someone who has been to the Games.”

Finn’s increased level gives him some hope that this dream might finally become a reality. In Shanghai, he wants to get comfortable with his shooting – and make sure the pressure doesn‘t get to him.

He’ll need that attitude to stand a chance against the line-up here.

Three-time World Archery Champion Kim Woojin is only a couple of targets away. And there are 113 other archers standing in the Kiwi’s way.

“It’s a long road,” said Finn.

“I want to keep a cool head and not let negative thoughts affect me.”