Sara Lopez: I see myself as a world champion

At the age of 23, Colombia’s Sara Lopez has cemented herself as one of the best – if not the best – compound women to ever shoot the international circuit.

She’s a multiple world record holder with more than 70 medals from the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit and other major tournaments since 2013. She’s also a four-time winner of the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final, a five-time world medallist and the reigning titleholder from the World Games.

There is one title that Sara is missing.

Despite the incredible record and having spent many weeks at the top of the world rankings, she’s never won the World Archery Championships. But she’ll have another chance – later this year in ’s-Hertogenbosch.

“I know this year is very important because of the World Championships and the Pan American Games, so I’m trying to work more on my mental aspect,” said Sara.

“When I was in Mexico [at the World Archery Championships], the pressure beat me, and I lost. This year, I want to focus on doing things well, on shooting the best I can and raising my level.”

Lopez started the year right.

She became Vegas Champion after beating So Chaewon in the shootdown in Sin City. It was the first time multiple compound women had shot perfect-900 scores over the three days of nerve-wracking competition. She followed that up with a 710-point qualification round at her first national ranking event of the year.

That’s just three points down on her career-best mark and the current world record of 713.

“The goal this year is to win everything I haven’t before, to defend the team title at the worlds, and qualify for my sixth Archery World Cup Final. I also want to improve the [72-arrow 50-metre ranking round] world record,” said Lopez.

“It’s been a long time since the last time I shot 713, but I’m preparing for it. I know I’m at a good level, I know I have good scores, but I also know I have competitors that are very close so I can’t let my guard down or let that pressure affect me.”

The length of time that Sara has spent at the top of the compound women’s field is quite extraordinary. She hasn’t fallen out of the top three in the world ranking since winning that first Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in 2014.

“I do believe I have a very strong mindset and desire to show the world how good my country can be. That desire to win is what differentiates me and my team from any other,” she said.

“I want to be the best and I work for it.”

Sara was arguably the favourite to win each of the last two championships. But she finished third in Copenhagen in 2015 and lost her first match in Mexico City in 2017.

A repeat of neither performance will be good enough in the Netherlands.

“Right now, I’m happy, I feel good, I’m shooting well, I have a lot of support, and I’m believing in my process. I don’t think anyone else has stayed at the top like I have done, so I have to believe it. I’m good, I can win it if I want,” she said.

“This time I’m going to the worlds to enjoy myself and to do my best – and I feel a lot more mature to deal with the pressure that it can bring.”

Sara saw Linda Ochoa-Anderson as her biggest rival ahead of this season, but since the Mexican athlete announced she would be stepping away from the international scene in 2019, the Colombian archer now has her eyes on So Chaewon and Yesim Bostan:

“So [Chaewon] is very strong and you can see she has as much desire to win as I do, and I see a lot of me in her. She’s always trying, she’s always looking to best herself and looking for perfection.”

“[Yesim] Bostan is also strong, she has grown a lot recently and she has a lot of support, which I think is good.”

In the end, who looks strong at the start of the season will have little bearing on who actually performs at the world championships. Recent history has shown that such a large field at such a prestigious event is guaranteed to generate surprises.

Lopez was unbeaten in international competition in 2018. She’s still the favourite for the world title in 2019. The expectation, once again, is even higher.

“I do see myself as a World Champion,” said Lopez. “But if it doesn’t happen this year, there will always be another chance to do it.”