Expert predictions: Forecasting the world championships

Ana Vazquez shoots at the Yankton 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships.

What Olympic hangover

The Yankton 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships has featured the same excellent standard we saw in Tokyo, with an even larger collection of elite archers converging on the United States to compete for some of the most-coveted titles in the sport. 

But who will those archers be? Will familiar faces crest the podium to add to their bounty of medals, or will a new crop of athletes seize the day – perhaps altering the course of their seasons after a disappointing showing at the Games. 

To make sense of it all, we’ve polled the following panel of experts for their predictions as we await the final matches here in South Dakota. 

  • Dean Alberga, photographer 
  • Jeff Kirshman, journalist
  • Gwenaël Massot, videographer 
  • George Tekmitchov, podcaster
  • Andrea Vasquez, journalist
Amanda Mlinaric shoots at the Yankton 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships.

1. What has surprised you most about the world championships so far?

George: That we have so quickly gotten back to extremely high-level performances, despite the challenges of the past 18 months. I’m extremely gratified to see quality performance just as high as before our forced hiatus, and I think there’s a great story of human resilience in our sport being showcased here. Absolutely inspirational. I am quite proud to be associated with the people here.

Dean: Both under-21 world champions have made it to the elite eight and have a real chance at reaching the podium. While a world championship title might be a bridge too far, Robin Jaatma and Amanda Mlinaric's talent is undeniable. 

Andrea: No one doubted An San's talent at the Olympics, but her continued excellence in Yankton has been truly remarkable. Adding a world championship titles in the same year as the Games would be a historical achievement. 

Jeff: Turkey's Samet Ak shook things up by upsetting Korean legend Oh Jin Hyek to reach the elite eight, joining teammate and Olympic Champion Mete Gazoz to give Turkey two representatives still in contention for gold.  

Gwenaël: Not quite a surprise, but it's nice to see Marcus D'Almeida back in the mix after showing such promise early in his career. Seeding second in qualifications and a match-up against unheralded Samet Ak of Turkey in his first round of the elite eight means he has a good chance of advancing far.

Chris Perkins shoots at the Yankton 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships.

2. What match-up intrigues you most as we enter the elite eight of individual matchplay?

Jeff: Christopher Perkins, winner of the compound men’s title 10 years ago, is well-positioned to add a second gold after competing at his first world championships in six years. But the Canadian faces the newly crowned under-21 champion in Estonia’s Robin Jaatma. A potential passing of the torch? I’ll be paying close attention to this one. 

Andrea: Mexico versus Korea in the recurve women's team final is sure to bring the best out of both nations. This is both a rematch of 2017 and an opportunity for Mexico to finally win a world championship title. Overcoming the odds against the nation that thwarted them in the past would make their victory even more special.

Gwenaël: Brady Ellison versus Kim Je Deok is a match-up between the top two seeds in Tokyo, as well as the reigning world champion versus an archer who has been billed as the best Korean talent in a century. The level of shooting should be especially superb in this one. 

The Korean recurve women gather at the Yankton 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships.

3. The Olympics and world championships are taking place in the same year for the first time in the sport's history. How has holding the two events in such quick succession affected the results here in Yankton?

George: Surprisingly, we have not seen any evidence of a pundit-predicted ‘post-Olympic slump’ among the shooters who were in Tokyo. Yes, there were a few upsets, but in my opinion the quality of shooting and scores was absolutely at peak level, even though weather conditions during the first couple of days were challenging. One outstanding example was three-time Olympic gold medallist An San, who has shown the same polish and focus she exhibited in Japan.

Jeff: If we limit our sample size to An San, there doesn’t seem to have been any effect at all. The first-ever three-time gold medallist in a single Olympics has looked just as dominant in Yankton as she did in Tokyo, advancing to the elite eight of the individual recurve women’s event and the mixed team and recurve women’s team finals. Three more golds might sound outrageous in the abstract, but even crazier is how realistic it actually seems.

Andrea: While some archers have alluded to burnout at this late stage of the season, there aren't any glaring names missing, nor have their been physical signs of fatigue we can point to. The world championships are a huge event in their own right. Even if archers are worn down by all of this travel, they're willing to power through for a few more weeks.

India has never won a world title.

4. Both India and Mexico are poised to win their first world champion title in Yankton Which nation has the best chance of breaking through and winning gold?

George: Mexico, absolutely. The nation has brought a totally higher level of performance to the game here. But India truly has shown resilience and talent as well. No matter who wins, no one loses in the big picture. They are all winners in my book already.

Dean: Tough call, but I would say India. They have had plenty of success on the international circuit and registered some good results this year. With Abhishek Verma leading the way, things are looking great for India.

Jeff: Considering that one of Mexico's chances is in the women's recurve team event against Korea, the nation's chances of breaking the deadlock is more realistically limited to one. Not that the Mexican women will be intimidated by the archery powerhouse. This is a rematch of the 2017 final and features the top two seeds from Tokyo. Expect a competitive battle in this one. 

GwenaëlBoth nations have a chance, but I'll pick India here. No nation has climbed the podium more (eight times) without collecting gold. Something tells me that will change this weekend.

Sara Lopez has never won a world title.

5. Who are your favourites to win in Yankton?

George: One lesson I’ve learned from announcing so many Olympic and world championship finals in the past three decades is that at this stage, ANY of the finalists has the potential to win. I will say that while I personally have high hopes for the truly iconic An San to add a world championship to her resume, it’s really there for the taking for any of the finalists, and I am extremely happy to see that we have such great representatives of our sport in a position to take the titles.  

I also think Brady Ellison will perform to his potential here – he is relaxed and ready to defend his title. But every finalist deserves to win.

Andrea: Alejandra Valencia has been extremely consistent all season, always coming close but never quite being able to reach the top. After putting in her time, I think Yankton is where she finally breaks through.

Jeff: The narrative is too tempting to ignore. I'm expecting An San and Mete Gazoz to elevate their Olympic Champion pedigrees by winning world championship titles in the same year.