Five archers to watch at the 2021 Pan American Championships

Oscar Ticas smiles during the Americas qualification event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games held in Medellin.

There’s no shortage of storylines to follow at the 2021 Pan American Championships in Monterrey, Mexico.

The event has been streamlined this time around, resulting in the relocation of the masters and youth categories to Medellin, Colombia, later in the year, but there’s still plenty going on. Olympic and Paralympic qualifiers run alongside the able-bodied and impaired championships next week – plus there’s a barebow competition for the first time.

Nevertheless, after the long competition drought, a handful of athletes on the Monterrey entry list stand out.

Scroll down for five archers on our radar, and don’t forget to tune in for live coverage of the Olympic qualification and championship finals on 27-28 March via Claro in Latin America or World Archery’s Youtube channel worldwide.

1. Valentina Vazquez

Who are they? Recurve woman from Mexico.

What’s the story? Vazquez, 18, shot at the Youth Olympic Games in 2018 and won the remote Indoor Archery World Series that finished in February, shooting some impressive scores over the 18-metre distance. Monterrey marks a transition to the senior ranks and 70 metres.

Mexico’s recurve women have had incredible runs over the past two Olympics: Aida Roman and Mariana Avitia’s silver and bronze medals in London, respectively, were followed by Alejandra Valencia’s fourth-place finish in Rio.

It’s essential to keep feeding a successful programme with fresh talent. If Vazquez is as good as advertised, she will not only push the incumbent members of the Mexican squad to improve, but could carve a role for herself early.

What’s the goal? Be competitive among the Mexican recurve women.

Vital statistics

  • Age: 18
  • World ranking: Not ranked
  • Best result: Reigning remote Indoor Archery World Series Champion.

2. Nora Valdez

Who are they? Compound woman from Colombia.

What’s the story? Success breeds success. Sara Lopez and Alejandra Usquiano came up together in 2013, though Lopez has since reached another stratosphere in terms of results, having won five Hyundai Archery World Cup titles. But without significant internal competition, top archers stop improving. The onus is on Valdez to provide the push.

She’s been a member of the Colombian team since 2015, but it’s rumoured she’s shooting better than ever.

If Colombia produces yet another international winner, it will officially take a step ahead of the USA and Russia as the category powerhouse. Where better to set that tone than this week in Mexico?

What’s the goal? A podium finish.

Vital statistics

  • Age: 23
  • World ranking: 42
  • Best result: Team gold medal at the world championships in 2017.

3. Nicholas d’Amour

Who are they? Recurve man from the US Virgin Islands.

What’s the story? This young man was already mentioned in our preview of the Olympic qualification situation in Monterrey. He’s shooting much better than he was two years ago – having spent time training in centres across the USA – and has the potential to be the breakout star of these championships.

The US Virgin Islands, which has a population of around 100,000 people, has competed at 12 Olympics, but it has never sent an archer to the Games.

What’s the goal? Winning an Olympic quota place. 

Vital statistics

  • Age: 19
  • World ranking: 178
  • Best result: Still to come.

4. Lisa Coryell

Who are they? W1 woman (para athlete) from the USA.

What’s the story? Coryell is an infectiously positive person. She’s also had a really tough year. Forced to shield herself during the pandemic as a high-risk person with multiple sclerosis, she developed an inflammation of the tissue surrounding her heart due to isolation stress.

Then she tested positive for COVID-19 in November and spent two stints in the hospital battling pneumonia, heart failure and kidney failure.

“There were a few times there where I thought I was done. I‘ve been fighting this disease for 30 some years, and I’m tired,” she told earlier this year.

“I think of the notes, the pictures and the kids and people that come up to me [in support] … and I’m like, ‘if you quit, you’re negating everything you’ve done in your lifetime’. So I’m like, all right, keep fighting. And I did.”

Coryell is flying to Monterrey with the express purpose of qualifying the USA a W1 women’s quota place for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which she is calling her last chance to medal as an athlete. (She has aspirations to coach afterward.)

What’s the goal? Winning a Paralympic quota place.

Vital statistics

  • Age: 56
  • World ranking: 11
  • Best result: Paralympian in 2016.

5. Oscar Ticas

Who are they? Recurve man from El Salvador.

What’s the story? Five years ago, Ticas secured a surprise Olympic quota place for El Salvador at the Americas qualification tournament in Medellin. Three days later, he was told he’d failed a prior doping test – having used a cream that contained anabolic steroids – and the place was retroactively stripped.

During an interview given in 2019, Oscar said he’d been trying to reclaim everything he lost ever since. The biggest thing that went, without a doubt, was the Olympics.

What’s the goal? Winning an Olympic quota place.

Vital statistics

  • Age: 33
  • World ranking: 157
  • Best result: Pan American Champion in 2006.

Competition at the Pan American Championships starts with qualification on Tuesday.