World champion Horackova reveals family was the key to Berlin success

Marie Horackova

It will be hard to wipe the smile from Marie Horackova’s face… at least for the next few weeks.

Archery has always been in Horackova’s blood but the recurve women’s gold medal, and World Archery Champion crown, she secured at the 2023 Hyundai World Archery Championships represents new heights – not just for herself or her family, but for her entire country.

Daughter of 2008 Olympian Barbora, who passed away in 2018, and coached by father Zdenek, Marie was seemingly destined for the archery range.

But the prospect of becoming a world champion is seldom as concrete.

A 16th-place finish in Yankton two years ago was evidence of plenty of potential, shortly after Horackova made her Olympic debut at Toyko 2020.

In Berlin, she delivered a career-high seventh-seed (at this level, at least), paving the way to an appearance in her first elite eight. And if the Czech archer, ranked just 42nd in the world, felt any nerves up on the stage in the arena, she certainly did not show it.

Horackova dispatched this year’s breakout star Lim Sihyeon, then Satsuki Noda, and finally Olympic medallist Alejandra Valencia, all in straight sets, on her path to the world title.

Marie Horackova (R) with father Zdenek

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was actually harder out in the qualification field.” 

“Here I just wanted to be happy shooting 10s and make everything good for myself so I was ready to shoot the 10s no matter what happened so I am happy and it turned into gold.”

Through nine sets and 27 arrows in the Berlin arena, Horackova averaged 29 points a set, 9.67 an arrow.

That’s the equivalent of a 696-point 72-arrow qualifying round. Four more than the world record – and 26 points above the 25-year-old’s career best. (Prior to 2023, she’d never broken a 9.00-point arrow average over a full season.)

Be it a renewed sense of confidence or a flash of sporting influence that allowed Horackova to delve so deep into herself to deliver the career-defining result, it was perhaps a backstage exchange with Valencia, no stranger to the pressure of such occasions, that settled any final nerves.

“At the time we both knew that we were going to shoot in the quarterfinals, we told each other, ‘see you in the gold final’, so that was a big thing for me,” she added. “I’m happy I was shooting [the final] against her.”

“Then I was relaxed because I just wanted to shoot good arrows and not think about being world champion.”

Marie Horackova

By sealing qualification for the elite eight on Thursday, Horackova had already gone a long way to achieving her country’s objectives for Berlin.

With three Korean recurve women in the quarterfinals, and Mexico then sealing a full Olympic quota slate with team bronze on Friday, the chance for Marie to book an early ticket to the next Olympics for the Czech Republic really opened up.

She did so quickly, ruthlessly dismissing the challenge of Lim – who was, until that moment, undefeated in individual matchplay in 2023 – and continuing her family’s love affair with the Games.

Horackova and her mother are the only two female archers to represent the Czech Republic at the Olympics, a trend that will continue should the 25-year-old be selected to fill the spot she earned for Paris. (Archers don’t qualify directly to the Olympics. The quotas are awarded to the country, which then decides the athlete that uses it.)

The Games in Paris are still a year away, while Horackova’s result is much more present.

She returns home from Berlin with far more than just a quota place – a world gold and plenty of confidence that it will not end up being the only one in her collection.

Marie Horackova

“My goal was to end up in the semis and then a medal after because of the quota place, I wanted to bring it home,” she explained. “Before this championship, it was the European Games, and I lost there just before the semis so it left me feeling like I can do it.”

“I have been working for that for such a long time, so now I’m happy with everything, it all came together.”

Behind her, through it all, has been family.

Father Zdenek has played the biggest on-field role as coach – but the support of extra family on finals day proved to be a key influence on her near-flawless finals performance.

“My sister came for the last moment… with her boyfriend, she was in tears,” said Marie. “I also have my boyfriend here but after the first set my sister was bursting into tears and the most emotions came from her.” 

“I am so grateful for all the support, I can really feel it from everyone,” she continued, before addressing them directly: “I hope you're happy with me for what I did and what I achieved and I am just excited for what’s to come.”

“The way to here has been a long one, it goes slowly but surely and I'm happy to have part of them everywhere in the competition with me.”

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