Zuniga to double-up, shoot able-bodied and para Pan Am Championships

Mariana Zuniga shoots during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The bulk of the outdoor season might be over but there is still one major event to come in 2022.

The Pan American and Para Pan American Championship will take place on 21-27 November in Santiago de Chile.

It’s a huge event for local hero Mariana Zuniga. She became Chile’s first-ever Paralympic archer last summer in Tokyo – having won the continental para title only months prior – and went on to collect a dramatic silver medal, earning her national renown.

Now Zuniga will perform on home soil – and in two events at one tournament.

“I have a big opportunity to qualify for the Pan Am Games and that’s my goal,” she said.

“If I get it, it would be awesome. Nothing else of the experience matters. It’s all about the qualification.”

Mariana is not talking about qualifying for the Para Pan Am Games – at which she will arrive as the favourite – because, as host country, Chile automatically receives tickets for a full team. (Although Zuniga does still need to confirm her place.) Instead, she’s talking about the able-bodied Pan Games – for which Chile has some invites, but not a full quota, with the bulk being won at the upcoming championships.

The 20-year-old will compete in both para and able-bodied events next week.

“It’s a pleasure to represent my country. It can be an inspiration for all people with disabilities. It‘s important not only for me but also for Chile,” said Zuniga.

This is not the first time that Mariana has competed in a major able-bodied tournament. She went to the World Games this past summer, inheriting the invitation issued to the Paralympic Champion when the winner in Tokyo, Phoebe Paterson Pine, withdrew.

Zuniga’s plan for these dual championships is more unusual. It’s rare for an archer to have an opportunity to compete in two entirely separate competitions at one event.

“It’s so important for me because it happens in my country,” she said. “I will have an opportunity to compete in conditions which I know. And I will be able to invite my family, my friends, all my close people to watch me there.”

Only one year removed from a Paralympic Games devoid of spectators, it will be the first time that Zuniga will perform in front of a sympathetic crowd.

“There's some pressure because all close people will come here and watch everything. But I think it also gives me the motivation to do my best. It will be an awesome experience. I want to enjoy it,” she said.

Next summer’s Pan and Para Pan Am Games will act as qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Zuniga’s compound category won’t be featured in the Olympics – although it remains under consideration for LA28 – but the event does offer a route for the defending silver medallist to return to the Paralympics.

“The most important is the Para Pan Am Games,” she said. “Because I can win qualification for Paris there.”

The 2022 Pan Am and Para Pan Championships will take place on 21-27 November in Santiago de Chile.