#Tokyo10: Lisa Barbelin’s ascension will be put to the test in Tokyo

#Tokyo10: Lisa Barbelin.

#Tokyo10 profiles 10 archers poised to make an impact at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

  • Name: Lisa Barbelin, recurve woman from France.
  • Age: 21
  • World ranking: 2
  • Olympic experience: None, she’s a first-timer.

Lisa Barbelin’s run of medals at the start of 2021 briefly propelled her to the number one spot in the recurve women’s world rankings, bridging a transition between Korea’s Kang Chae Young, who had held the position since May 2019, to Deepika Kumari of India, the winner of two stages of the Hyundai Archery World Cup this season.

The young Frenchwoman’s climb up the list did not come by accident. She was impressive at world ranking events and won the European Championships, alongside qualifying that quota place to the Olympics.

But Korea, of course, did not participate in international tournaments this season and Kang lost her spot through inactivity rather than a measurable drop in performance, leaving outside observers to speculate exactly where Barbelin belongs in the overall archery landscape.

Can Lisa continue her success in Japan? Or will she be humbled by the full slate of competition standing in her way?

Lisa Barbelin celebrates her victory at the Antalya 2021 European Championships.

Reasons for hope

Two Olympic Champions have won the European title and then gone on to take the sport’s biggest prize: Frenchman Sebastien Flute in 1992 and Marco Galiazzo of Italy in 2004.

Berengere Schuh of France won the recurve women’s European title in 2008 and she was also a member of the squad that took bronze in the team competition at Beijing 2008 –which was the last time a French woman took an Olympic medal in archery. (No woman from France has ever won an individual medal.)

Often mentioned as the largest competitive archery community in the world, a medal at the Games would do wonders given the location of the subsequent Olympics.

Is it the time? When Lisa Barbelin tore apart the field at the European Championships in Antalya in May, taking the continental title, winning the qualifier and Tokyo spot, and making herself world number one in the process, she undoubtedly revitalised the French archery machine.

The fact that she’s left-handed means it’s impossible not to draw parallels with Flute.

Before Antalya, France didn’t have a single place booked for the Games, despite coming incredibly close in both ’s-Hertogenbosch (the first and main qualifier at the world championships) and in Minsk at the European Games.

It was a frustrating – and potentially embarrassing – problem for the hosts of the Olympics in 2024.

But any need to explain away a non-existent French archery squad in Tokyo was quickly wiped clean with Barbelin’s emphatic victory in Antalya, which was quickly followed by a men’s place on the same day – and eventually, a full men’s team, won last month at the final qualifier in Paris.

Even before taking down her first major, the signs of form were there for the 21-year-old, winning two stages of the European Grand Prix and registering top-10 finishes at the first two Hyundai Archery World Cup stages of the year. She’s a much better archer than she was before the pandemic.

“I think this year has been very beneficial,” she told L’Equipe. “I have more solid technical skills, I feel very stable in what I produce. I can believe in my ambitions and give myself the means to succeed.”

Lisa Barbelin celebrates at the Porec 2021 European Grand Prix.

Reasons for concern

Barbelin’s rise has been incredibly fast, and the Olympics is a different beast from the European Championships. She will also be without a women’s team behind her, with all that extra support, and she is not a ranking-round specialist, at least not yet. She will likely need a breakthrough match for her to shine in Tokyo.

Path to victory

A tall left-hander with a classical technique, Barbelin is noted for her ambition and focus on the line, often going ‘into the tank’ to compose herself. At the youth world championships in 2019, she calmly handled shooting against one of the Tokyo favourites, Jang Minhee of Korea, for the bronze medal. She lost that match – but not disastrously – and the Barbelin going to Tokyo is a different animal: a more aggressive and confident archer.

“Right now, my ambitions are touching the stars,” she said last month.

If she can hold on to all that technique and retain her self-belief, the sky is the limit.

Did you know?

A comeback queen? On the route to her European title victory, Barbelin trailed, 4-2, in the quarterfinal against top seed Elena Osipova and was down, 5-3, against Denisa Barankova, maintaining her focus to come back in each before delivering a decisive arrow to move on in the tournament.

Header artwork by Eduardo Batán Molina.