Bonacina, Cure win maiden world para titles at Pilsen championships

Oznur Cure celebrates winning the world para championships.

Italy’s Matteo Bonacina and Oznur Cure of Türkiye collected the individual compound titles at the 2023 World Archery Para Championships on Saturday in Pilsen as Great Britain, China and India won the doubles event.

Cure faced sensational Indian debutant Sheetal Devi. The 16-year-old armless archer had a dream run in Pilsen, seeding fourth in the qualification round and advancing to the final only 11 months after she began her archery career. But there would be no fairytale ending – Cure overcame a slow start to take gold.

“I’ve worked so many years for that moment,” said the Turkish athlete with tears clouding her eyes.

Oznur’s first end was rough. She shot 27 to Devi’s 29 points – but quickly became animated in her wheelchair on target two, the energy levels sparking a better second series. Momentum with the Turkish archer, Cure went on to win by two, with a total of 140 points. 

“I shot very well at the practice field, but then my position was probably wrong,” she explained.

A moment of internal reflection reset things. The 25-year-old athlete knew what a world gold was – she medalled with the Turkish team last year in Dubai – but this individual victory was special.

“I could give my life for my country. I’m so happy everyone will listen to our national anthem,” she said.

Brazil’s Jane Karla Kogel took compound women’s bronze after beating Indian top seed Sarita, 142-139.

Italian 38-year-old Bonacina ended his 10-year wait for an individual medal at the World Archery Para Championships. He made his debut at the event back in Bangkok in 2013 – but he was already guaranteed his first podium in Pilsen.

But when he eventually made it to the final, he had his sights set on gold.

“I just hope it’s the beginning of my winning series,” said the Italian, who beat Nathan MacQueen from Great Britain, 141-139, in a tight final.

The archers tied after the first two ends. In the fourth, Bonacina bounced to a three-point lead. Having needed only a seven to confirm the title, he dropped his worst arrow of the match, an eight – enough.

“The last arrow was hard. When I saw yellow, I just shot,” he said.

Sixth appearance at the world championships, first win. 

The bronze medal match saw Australia’s Jonathon Milne defeat armless archer Piotr Van Montagu from Belgium. 

(For the first time in history, three armless archers shot for medals at one competition. Matt Stutzman was a part of a USA compound men’s double team that took bronze.)

Chinese domination in doubles events led to six squads making the final. One of them shot on Saturday – in the compound men’s event. Ai Xinliang and He Zihao produced a phenomenal performance, clinching gold and setting a new world record.

The duo scored 157 out of a possible 160 points to beat Iran and bag the world best.

“I’m very excited,” said Zihao. “The audience gave us the force to make each shot.”

“I feel relieved,” added Xinliang. “Our performance in the previous rounds wasn’t so good, but we did really well in the final.”

Women’s gold went to Great Britain’s Phoebe Paterson Pine and Jodie Grinham, who showed excellent consistency, not shooting a single arrow below a nine against Brazil. Paralympic Champion Pine completed her trophy cabinet with this win. The reigning Paralympic and European Champion now has a world title, too.

“It’s something we’ve never done. We are finally the world champions. It’s fantastic,” she said. “Now I’ve got like the whole set.”

They’ve both medalled at this event in the past – but never achieved world gold.

India also collected its first gold at these championships as Rakesh Kumar and Sarita won the compound mixed doubles event. The pair defeated Brazil, 152-146. 

“We feel great after winning gold,” said Kumar. “Coming to such a big stage was amazing for us.”

Competition concludes on Sunday in Pilsen with W1 and recurve finals.

Compound finals: Pilsen 2023