Indoor World Series Champions crowned at Vegas 2022

British archery Healey wins 2022 Indoor Archery World Series Final  - Women's Recurve

Compounders Toja Ellison and Nicolas Girard, and recurvers Penny Healey and Felix Wieser were crowned the new Indoor Archery World Series Champions at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas, USA tonight.

This year’s 18-metre tour kicked off in Nimes last month and was played out as part of the Vegas Shoot. The ranking after the first two days of the famous tournament counted towards the elite ranking that qualified 16 archers towards the international circuit crown in this curtailed – but post-pandemic return – season.

British youngster Penny Healey was the surprise of the event.

The 16-year-old shot 582 to come through as the fourth seed, eventually facing the home nation’s world silver medallist Casey Kaufhold, ranked number two with a 588, in the final. Top qualifier Lisa Barbelin had lost in the first round.

Like everyone who entered the finals arena, Healey had to adjust to the new lighting and raucous Vegas crowd. She had compatriot Bryony Pitman, who she’d beaten earlier in the eliminations, as her coach as support. And despite her little experience on such a stage, Healey started well.

Three sets in, she’d posted two 29s and a 30 and held a commanding lead at 5-1.

Kaufhold, smiling, came back in the fourth – but a perfect 30 sealed the win for the upstart Brit. Cue immediate tears and a hug with Pitman.

“I’m so excited and happy, I never thought this would happen,” said Healey, who shot in the seior world championships at Yankton last year. “I was so nervous [in the final] that I didn't think I would get any points at all. This was my first gold medal match as a senior and it means so much. I don’t know how to explain it, I’m lost for words.”

If Healey was a surprise, Germany’s Felix Wieser was not. Since his incredible perfect match to beat Steve Wijler in the final of the Sud de France – Nimes Archery Tournament, there’s been growing expectation that he’s the one to beat. 

The number one seed in the finals, he wound up taking gold by defeating France’s Thomas Chirault, 6-2. And though he didn’t quite match his perfect performance from Nimes, his win was nonetheless impressive.

“It just feels great,” said the 28-year-old, who finished ninth in this event last time out. “It wasn’t the plan to come here. I decided [to come] on Monday. I didn’t expect this. I just came here, with the aim of ‘let’s try; we will see what happens’. It’s great, it’s one of the best competitions in the world.”

Toja Ellison defeated Meeri-Marita Paas, 144-143, to compound women’s gold. Ellison, who was runner up at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final last season, finished with a 10 to break parity and edge out her young Estonian opponent.

“It feels awesome,” said Ellison. “I have never shot in this final. I have shot finals, but I have never made into this amazing one with the crowd and everything. This was the goal today and I knew I had to go into the gold medal match because bronze wouldn’t be enough, so it just feels amazing.”

The last match of the event saw 21-year-old French favourite Girard defeat Spain’s Alberto Blazquez, 147-146, to upgrade the third place finish he had two years ago to the top spot. 

Blazquez was nearly timed out with his first arrow, barely releasing it just before the buzzer sounded and that seemed to unsettle the Spaniard, who trailed 58-56 after the second end.

Six perfect arrows followed and he found himself just a point behind and putting pressure back on Girard heading into the final volley. Yet another perfect 30 saw Girard needing a final 10 to take victory – which he duly delivered, fist-pumping as he walked off the line to celebrate his win.

“I was quite a bit shaky with a lot of nerves but with a good mental game I was happy to be there and wanted to win,” said Girard about his final 30. “It’s a massive accomplishment right now. It’s really a great dream, it’s the biggest arena I made, the biggest accomplishment I made. A dream come true.”

Alongside the Indoor Archery World Series Finals, Archers’ Appreciation night in Vegas saw the event celebrate the near-3000 attending competitors at the tournament and the 100-year anniversary of Easton, the famous sports equipment manufacturer. There were performances from local college cheerleaders and entertainer Orissa Kelly.

Competition at the Vegas Shoot concludes tomorrow with the shootdowns.