Phoebe Pine wins surprise Paralympic gold

Phoebe Pine with her gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Great Britain’s Phoebe Pine shot the last arrow that she needed, an eight, to beat Maria Zuniga of Chile, 134-133, and take compound women’s gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“I kind of feel like I’m living in an out-of-body experience, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” said Pine.

“Everybody says the same thing, it means the world, but it really does. I didn’t expect it myself. This is my first Games, so I’ve completely blindsided myself, really, and I’m incredibly happy.”

Phoebe qualified just 16th but upset her teammate, the favourite and top seed, Jess Stretton in the second round.

“I felt terrible,” she said later. “[But] after winning the semifinal, I thought I had a chance. And I really just wanted to go out and give my absolute all. I’ve definitely won that medal for me and her.”

Victories over France’s Julie Chupin and Maria Virgilio of Italy followed before a tight final against Chile’s first Paralympic archer.

Pine, who started archery after a visit to Centre Parcs and has spina bifida, opened up about her mental health after collecting the gold medal.

“I have depression and anxiety. I go to therapy for it. The past 48 hours have been quite difficult,” she said.

“My brain will tell me that I’m rubbish and things like that, but I’ll take it a lot more seriously than just, ‘you’re rubbish’.”

She credited her psychologist for his support.

“Rich really helps me with that lot of rubbish,” she said.

“My head needs to listen to me now.”

The 23-year-old collects the first archery medal for Great Britain, the nation that topped the table in the sport five years ago, at these Games with the gold.

Zuniga’s silver medal is the first for an athlete from Chile in the long history of archery at the Paralympics.

“Everything has gone so fast today. I only remember that I had to focus all the time,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been dreaming. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it.”

Having only qualified her quota place for these Paralympics at the start of the year in Mexico, Zuniga seeded 14th in Yumenoshima Park and climbed a mountain in matchplay to even make the final against Pine.

First, she upset reigning champion Zhou Jiamin. Then she beat the silver medallist from Rio, Lin Yueshan, in the quarterfinals.

Last but not least, it was the bronze medallist from London 2012, Stepanida Artakhinova, who fell to the Games debutant.

“Even before the quarterfinals, I was happy,” said Mariana. “All the things that happened after were like winning experiences, winning beautiful moments.”

“I feel like a winner.”

Virgilio took the bronze medal with an impressive victory over Artakhinova.

Sent straight back into the arena after their respective semifinal losses, the pair were tied after nine arrows. It was at this point that the Italian 24-year-old started to pull away.

She shot only one more nine – and then finished with five straight 10s to open up a three-point lead and take the match, 142-139.

“If the loss gets too much into you, you’re not able to recover,” said Maria.

“Either you stand up, or you let it kill you.”

The bronze is Italy’s first archery medal of these Paralympic Games.

Competition continues in Tokyo with the W1 men’s finals this afternoon.

Final ranking: Compound women

  1. Phoebe Pine, Great Britain
  2. Mariana Zuniga, Chile
  3. Maria Virgilio, Italy
  4. Stepanida Artakhinova, Russia
  5. Julie Chupin, France
  6. Lin Yueshan, China
  7. Sevgi Yorulmaz, Turkey
  8. Eleonora Sarti, Italy