Olympic archery power rankings: July 2021

Deepika Kumari and Brady Ellison in 2021.

Welcome to the (final!) instalment of World Archery’s power rankings for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Throughout the outdoor season, our stable of writers has been watching, evaluating and grading the field of recurve archers in contention for the Games to track who stands the best chance of cresting the podium later this month.

We are a mere three weeks away from the Games now, with the final Olympic qualifier officially in the books and all 128 quota places for the archery competitions in Japan distributed. All that’s left is to see who prevails.   

Who has benefited the most from competing on the international circuit? Will countries that stayed home – most notably Korea – be sufficiently prepared despite missing valuable competition experience due to travel restrictions? Will an exceptional final tune-up in Paris be enough to bolster Deepika Kumari’s campaign to win India’s first archery medal at the Olympics?

These questions, and more, are soon to be answered.

The Games begin on 23 July at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field, where a collection of the world’s best archers will converge to compete for five medals for the first time. The newest title, the mixed team, will be the first awarded, one day later.

While we wait the last few days until arrows are shot for score, here’s some more prognostication – and 10 archers, five men and five women, who we think stand the best chance of winning Olympic titles at Tokyo 2020.

Previous editions:

Kim Woojin shoots at the Bangkok 2019 Asian Archery Championships.

Recurve men

1. Brady Ellison, USA USA flag (previous rank: 1)

No change here. Brady is still the favourite. He began the month by guiding the USA men to a full team quota at the final Olympic qualifier in Paris, winning the tournament alongside Jack Williams and Jacob Wukie despite a bout of self-diagnosed shaky shooting throughout the week. It was his individual gold at stage three of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup, though, that will have the world number one feeling confident ahead of his quest for the individual Olympic gold that has eluded him. Now it’s up to Ellison to win it.

2. Kim Woojin, Korea KOR flag (previous rank: 2)

Woojin remains a strong threat for gold as the world patiently waits to see Korea compete away from home soil. The team’s presumptive top man knows better than most that the Olympics are won in matchplay, and not on the ranking field. Remember, he lost early at the Rio Games in 2016 after shooting the first-ever 700 in qualifying.

3. Oh Jin Hyek, Korea KOR flag (previous rank: 4)

The man that defies age, conventional wisdom and the pattern of young archers from Korea usurping the old guard on the Olympic squad. There’s only been one archer from Korea to return and medal at the Games having missed an edition (Ed – that statement needs checking) – Kim Soo-Nyung’s comeback was at Sydney 2000, eight years after her silver in Barcelona and 12 on from her winning performance in Seoul. Oh Jin Hyek can’t win in Tokyo riding a youthful wave of talent. Oh Jin Hyek can win in Tokyo through grit and determination.

4. Mauro Nespoli, Italy ITA flag (previous rank: 5)

Mete Gazoz dropping off this list due to a dearth of big results this year leaves a vacuum that Nespoli fills. There’s been no medal for the experienced Italian in 2021 and he won’t be going to the Games with a team for the first time in his career. (Did anyone realise that this was Mauro’s fourth consecutive Olympics?) The mixed team will be at the forefront of his mind – and Italy have a real shot in that event – but once that’s out of the way, it’s individual glory or nothing for ‘The Nesp’ in Tokyo.

5. Nicholas D’Amour, US Virgin Islands ISV flag (previously unranked)

Think about how the individual events at the Olympics work. You shoot qualifying and then, four to six days later, you shoot up to two individual matches. If you win both of those, you make the final day which, for men, is the last day of the Games, eight days after the 72-arrow round. On that day, win the one match in the morning and you’re into the final eight that enter the afternoon session, which is when the Olympic Champion is crowned. Make the final eight and anything can happen.

So what if Nicholas got to the Games on a universality invitation? He made the final eight at all three stages of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in 2021.

Dropping out: Mete Gazoz, Turkey (previous rank: 3).

Worth watching: Atanu Das, India; Wei Chun-Heng, Chinese Taipei; Steve Wijler, Netherlands; Jean-Charles Valladont, France; Jack Williams, USA; and Kim Je Deok, Korea.

Wu Jiaxin shoots at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Recurve women

1. Deepika Kumari, India IND flag (previous rank: 3)

What a showing in Paris from Kumari, who vaulted to number one in the recurve women’s world rankings following a triple gold at the third stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup – just the 11th archer to achieve the feat in the 15-year history of the series. The two-time Olympian captured her second individual gold of the season in France, as well as women’s team and mixed team gold. The weight of a nation will be on her shoulders as India not-so-patiently awaits the first Olympic archery medal in the nation's history.

But let’s be clear… the number one spot in these rankings is not because she’s the world number one, given the tough circumstances and the lack of Asian competitors at major events. This top spot is because she’s looked fierce. Good. Great. Like she could win… in Tokyo.

2. Kang Chae Young, Korea KOR flag (previous rank: 1)

It was reported last month that the Korean Olympic Committee expects its archers to sweep the gold medals in Tokyo, improving on its historic sweep of the golds in Rio with the addition of the mixed team event in Japan. Kang’s status as Korea’s top-ranked woman establishes her as the head of the spear for accomplishing such a goal. Anything less than gold will be considered a disappointment. 

3. An San, Korea KOR flag (previous rank: 2)

An San could very well have won individual gold on the international circuit had she travelled to Guatemala City (or Lausanne, or Paris), but she will have to settle for third in our rankings after training at home with the rest of her teammates all outdoor season. Still, she is a strong contender to win a medal when Korea reintroduces itself to the world in Japan.  

4. Lisa Barbelin, France FRA flag (previous rank: 4)

A tiebreak loss in the second round in stage three doesn’t invalidate Barbelin’s otherwise impressive 2021 season. The lone female representative from France at the Games will look to represent her country well, especially with the subsequent Olympics in Paris just three years away. 

5. Wu Jiaxin, China CHN flag (previous rank: 5)

Like her Korean contemporaries, Wu’s small sample size this season is buoyed by her pedigree and a generous amount of speculation without any international tournaments to point to. As has been the enduring caveat all season, it will be fascinating to see how each country’s respective approach to travel restrictions affects who takes gold in Japan.

Worth watching: Svetlana Gomboeva, Russia; Michelle Kroppen and Lisa Unruh, Germany; Casey Kaufhold and Mackenzie Brown, USA and Alejandra Valencia, Mexico.