Gazoz, Shkolna, van der Winkel and Akcaoglu seed top in Plovdiv

Mete Gazoz draws arrows in Plovdiv.

Olympic Champion Mete Gazoz (681), Laura van der Winkel (665), Batuhan Akcaoglu (712) and Mariya Shkolna (700) topped individual qualification on a cold opening day of competition at the season’s first European Grand Prix in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

World number two Gazoz, who finished a frustrating fourth at the opening stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup on home soil in Antalya less than two weeks ago, built enough of a lead over the first half of his 72-arrow round, shooting a field-leading 344 for the 36 arrows, to stay ahead. Mete’s total of 681 was well below his European record of 698 – but enough for him to take the first seed in Bulgaria ahead of Italy’s Yuri Belli and the US Virgin Islands’ Nicholas D’Amour.

The runner-up in the recurve women’s event at the Hyundai Archery World Cup season opener kept up her early season form. Laura van der Winkel shot consistent halves of 334 and 331 for 665 and a clear first place in qualifying, 15 points clear of Roberta di Francesco in the second spot.

Three of the top four seeds in the compound men’s event went to archers from Turkey.

Batuhan Akcaoglu hit a 712 to put himself three points clear of his nearest rival, Jozef Bosansky, at the top of the leaderboard. Yakup Yildiz and Emircan Haney came in third and fourth with 704 and 703, respectively.

A total of 10 compound men topped 700 points – but only one compound woman.

Mariya Shkolna in action at Porec 2021

The story of the day was Luxembourg’s Mariya Shkolna, who shot her competition best of exactly 700 points.

“I feel good and happy with the result,” said Shkolna. “Shooting felt actually easy and on place. I honestly never set score-related goals for competition because of the weather and many other conditions that can be so different and change so quick during rounds. Shooting 700 today definitely makes me happy – who wouldn’t be happy with a competition personal best?”

The score put her five points clear of the world number 17, Croatia’s Amanda Mlinaricwho she lost to in the final of the European Grand Prix in Porec, Croatia last year.

Under new coach Dubravko Buden, Shkolna has shown quick improvement. She started the international season with ninth-place finishes in both the individual and mixed team events two weeks ago in Antalya, later posting thanks to Buden on her Instagram page her thanks to Buden for his “…work and sharing your [sic] experience”.

“It was a few months of work to change my shooting,” Mariya explained about the coaching change. “We’ve been working on what is strong and what weak sides I have to improve, but you never know until competition whether it’s going to work out or if there are still adjustments to be made to make the changes more efficient. Today it worked out good.”

Competition for Shkolna and the rest of the archers in Plovdiv continues on Thursday 5 May with individual eliminations throughout the day, followed by mixed team eliminations in the early evening.

      Top seeds: Plovdiv 2022