Sara Lopez wins elusive world champion title in Yankton

Sara Lopez celebrates winning the 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships.

Colombia’s Sara Lopez beat India’s Jyothi Surekha Vennam, 146-144, to secure her first individual world title at the 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships in Yankton, South Dakota.

She became the first archer in Yankton to win all three gold medals available (team, mixed and individual) and, this time, against the same opponent.

“I can’t still believe what’s happening. Yesterday was as amazing as today. I’m very happy because I dreamt of this moment for a while,” said an emotional Sara.

“Every time I put all my effort into doing this, things didn’t work out and when I came calm, things worked three times over, so I’m very happy and very thankful.”

Lopez had a perfect campaign in Yankton.

She qualified first with 693 points in extremely windy conditions and then won two matches to make the elite eight in Yankton.

In the riverside arena, the Colombian archer beat Sarah Prieels in the quarters and then shot a perfect 150-point match against Toja Ellison in the semis to book a berth in the final.

She wasn’t so invincible in the final but did enough to stay ahead of Vennam, taking 146 to a two-point victory at the world title.

“I didn’t want to think about medals or in impossibles, because that’s how I used to see the worlds: impossible. When I saw it as something that’s in my hands, is when it happened,” she added.

Having been to four previous world championships, the fifth was Sara’s opportunity to finally win that missing title: “It was something list on my list and now I can remove it and set new goals.”

Yankton becomes Jyothi Surekha’s second individual world podium after 2019, where she won bronze, and the third at this year’s championships, having taken silver in both women’s team and mixed team events.

All those three silvers came against the same archer: Sara Lopez.

“It’s been a great day today because I’ve shot my first 150 in an international tournament and I’m super happy. I’m also happy because last time I won the bronze and this time I won the silver, so I’m happy,” said Jyothi.

The Indian archer stepped into the finals field arena and delivered a perfect a perfect score in her quarterfinal against world youth champion Amanda Mlinaric of Croatia. 

Although her semifinal against Andrea Becerra of Mexico wasn’t perfect, she secured a comfortable win, 148-146, to make the gold medal match against Lopez for the third time at these world championships.

“[I’m] not 100% [happy with this silver] but it’s okay, one has to win and one has to lose,” she concluded.

The bronze medal match came down to the measurement when Mexico’s Andrea Becerra and Toja Ellison went into a shoot-off.

Tied at 146 points apiece after the regulation 15-arrow match, the compound archers shot one more arrow to decide the winner.

Ellison shot first and delivered a nine. Becerra followed with a nine, too, and a judge was required. It was Andrea who had the arrow closest to the middle.

“I’m very happy, just very happy. There’s lots of years of effort that reflect in this medal,” said Andrea.

“I was focusing on my shots and to stay calm. This bronze means a lot, I put a lot of effort into it, I wasn’t even sure I was coming here, I’m here thanks to the support and help of many Mexicans who donated. This is for them.”

The 21-year-old beat 2017 World Archery Champion Song Yun Soo of Korea, also in a shoot-off and with a better nine, in the quarters before falling to Jyothi Surekha Vennam in the semis, 148-146.

This podium is Colombia’s first-ever individual world title – and agonisingly close to Mexico and India’s first golds in any category.