D’Almeida wins for gran: ‘I wanted to show her how good I am’
Archery is full of second chances.
The same collection of athletes compete at nearly every tournament, providing them with ample opportunity to familiarise – and then refamiliarise –themselves with their opponents.
Surrendering the upper hand doesn’t last for long. Attend enough tournaments, and your chances at redemption increases.
Marcus D’Almeida was well-acquainted with the competition field when he arrived at the 2021 Hyundai World Archery Championships in Yankton.
The promising recurve man from Brazil won gold here at the under-18 world championships in 2015, when he reaffirmed his status as the indisputable darling of the archery community ahead of his home Olympics in Rio, and his peers on the shooting line included many names with whom he was familiar with.
Perhaps most notable from that group was world number one Brady Ellison, who defeated D’Almeida in a thrilling gold medal match at the 2014 Archery World Cup Final in Lausanne.
The youngest qualifier in the history of that event, D’Almeida’s ascension to the final portended a burgeoning rivalry with the USA archer. Surely, with so much talent between them, the two would meet again someday.
Yet while D’Almeida’s career has since progressed in a state of volatility – first with an inexplicable dip, followed by a more recent return to form – a rematch against Ellison had never materialised.
The reigning world champion held his end of the bargain, maintaining his perch atop the throne. The burden was on D’Almeida to come and find him.
D’Almeida finally got his chance in the arena at Riverside Park, where the experienced youngster, now a two-time Olympian, defeated Ellison in the semifinals on his way to an individual silver medal – delivering Brazil its first podium at the world championships in the nation’s history.
The 23-year-old was brilliant all tournament, seeding second before easing into the elite eight.
From there, he defeated surprise finalist Samet Ak of Turkey in the quarterfinals, setting up the long-awaited rematch with Ellison, whom the Brazilian dispatched in a comeback, 6-4.
“When you write my name into Google, normally the first thing you see is a video of me and Brady in the World Cup Final,” D’Almeida said of their 2014 duel. “And I lost that final, so everyone always sees me losing.”
Since his victory, D’Almeida said, the same keywords have yielded a different search result.
“This one is a lot better,” he said, laughing. “Now everyone knows I won.”
That awareness, D’Almeida continued, extends to admirers who don’t require the internet to know of his accomplishments.
Following along from her home in Brazil, D’Almeida’s grandmother, Maria Geni, watched intently as her grandson marched through the bracket to the gold medal final against Korea’s Kim Woojin.
At 90 years old, Maria has charted Marcus’ progress with the enthusiasm only a grandmother could possess. She takes losses to heart, he said, and his third-round exit at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games hit her especially hard.
“My grandmother is very important to me, and I don’t want to ever see her sad,” D’Almeida said. “So after the Games, I trained a lot more than I used to. I changed my training plan, and the result came.”
“I dedicate this victory to my grandmother."
D’Almeida held strong against Woojin in the final, recovering from a 4-0 deficit to shoot a perfect 30 in the third and push the match to a fifth set, eventually falling to the living legend, 7-3.
Winning silver was up to Maria Geni’s standards, it seems – "second in the world is good, right?” D’Almeida said– providing a welcome sense of closure on what has been an eventful season.
“I remember telling myself: I can, I can, I can, I can,” said D’Almeida, before returning to the subject of his gran.
“It was really important to me that I shoot well here. I wanted to show her how good I am.”