Vanhollebeke takes visually impaired world title again in Dubai

Ruben Vanhollebeke shoots at the world para championships.

Belgium’s Ruben Vanhollebeke has won his second successive visually impaired world title, grabbing gold in a combined event featuring all levels of visual impairment classification at the 2022 World Archery Para Championships in Dubai.

“It’s really great,” said the 44-year-old after the final. “I worked really hard these past two years with COVID-19 and everything, practising nearly every day. I did a lot to enjoy my sport, to do what I really like to do and what I’m good at. I’m really happy.”

Vanhollebeke beat Pakistan’s Tanveer Ahmed in straight sets in the gold medal match to take the honours, following up on his world title in the visually impaired 1 division from 2019.

To ensure a complete competition and to comply with minimum attendance rules, the two usual divisions – visually impaired 1 and 2/3 – were combined for the event in Dubai, with all athletes wearing blindfolds to ensure a level playing field.

Usually, athletes competing in the visually impaired 1 category wear blindfolds when shooting, while in the visually impaired 2/3 division they do not. Athletes in both divisions use tactile sights to aim and shoot.

Ruben Vanhollebeke collects his gold medal.

Vanhollebeke’s 6-0 final win in 2022 mirrored his straight-set victory in the last match three years ago in ’s-Hertogenbosch, where he defeated Cypriot Misos Christos. The Belgian archer didn’t want to be presumptuous about taking gold again.

“I hoped it, but in Belgium we have a saying that you ‘do not sell the skin of the bear before it’s shot’,” said Vanhollebeke about if he thought he would win a second successive title.

“It means – never say that you’re going to get gold if you don’t have [that thought] in your head. I worked a lot for it. I enjoyed it and I played with a lot of fun this week and that's the important thing.”

So what does it mean to have another gold in his locker?

“A whole lot,” said the visually impaired archer, laughing. “Actually, I cannot describe it. I’m just really glad.”

Italy’s Daniele Piran defeated Australia’s Craig Newbery in a shoot-off for bronze, seven points to two, after they had drawn 5-5 after five sets.

Photos courtesy Yayha Essa (Dubai Club for People of Determination).

Quotes courtesy Priyanka Sharma (organising committee) and Antoni Cichy.