Valencia eyes first career World Cup Final podium in Tlaxcala

Alejandra Valencia shoots during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Alejandra Valencia appears at her sixth career Hyundai Archery World Cup Final next month on home soil in Tlaxcala.

She has qualified for the season-ending event four times before – and has been invited as host representative twice, first when it was held in Mexico City in 2015 and now in 2022.

The structure of the tournament is simple. In each category, eight archers shoot a knockout bracket from the quarterfinals, through semifinals and into the final.

Win three consecutive matches and you’ll be crowned Hyundai Archery World Cup Champion.

In five attempts to date, Valencia has only made it past her first match once. Nine years ago, in Paris, she beat Joo Hyun Jung before falling to perennial contender Deepika Kumari and then losing to Cui Yuanyuan in the third-place play-off to finish just off the podium.

“I’ve been really close to the medals,” she said. “Now I want to be there.”

“That’s what I’m going for and what I would like to achieve this time.”

For the past decade, Valencia has continued the incredible run of international results heralded by her teammates Aida Roman and Mariana Avitia at the London 2012 Olympics. (Roman took individual silver there, Avitia individual bronze.)

Four years later, aged 21 at her second Games, Valencia herself finished fourth.

And then last summer in Tokyo, Alejandra broke the podium. Paired with Luis Alvarez in the first-ever mixed team event at the Games, the pair collected Olympic bronze.

Over the last three Olympics, only two countries – Korea and Japan – have won more archery medals than Mexico. And the women that put the country in that position are rightly lauded for their achievements.

“I’ve been very excited since they said [the Final] would be in Tlaxcala,” said the current world number 11. “I said, ‘I have to go, I have to be there’, because I know the Mexican fans respond well.”

“They’re very passionate.”

Valencia, Roman and Avitia came runner-up in the recurve women’s team event when the world championships were held in Mexico City in 2017. The capital’s famous Zocalo was electric then. The central square in Tlxacala promises a similar atmosphere in October.

“I want to go through that experience again,” she said. “Since they announced it would be here, I’ve been really excited.”

Only one Mexican archer qualified outright for the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in 2022.

Dafne Quintero, the 20-year-old compounder who’d never shot for the senior team prior to this season, podiumed at two stages of the international circuit, taking bronze in Gwangju and silver in Medellin. She booked a ticket on points and is now up to seventh in the Sanlida World Archery Rankings.

The four places that Mexico receives as host of the season-ending event – one in each of the four competition categories – weren’t awarded to athletes lightly. They had to be won during a selection tournament held last weekend.

“The fact it was me was like, ‘come on, you have to do well, you have to show what you are made of’,” said Valencia.

“You have to represent [the country], you have to shoot well and you have to do things right.”

Quietly one of the most consistent archers of the last decade, Valencia hasn’t dropped out of the top-25-ranked recurve women in the world since late-2011.

An Olympic medallist, a world medallist… there’s just one egregious podium missing.

And she’ll have a chance to rectify that in Tlaxcala next month.