Patience pays off for Julio Barillas and Guatemala

Julio Barillas, Jose Marcelo del Cid and Pedro Salazar


Julio Barillas has been competing in archery for more than a decade and a half, but 2023 was proof that all his hard work was worth it.

When it comes to Guatemalan archery, the 28-year-old is the man for almost every role: coach, administrator and secretary general for the national association.

But first and foremost, he is an archer and last year he was part of the compound men’s team that made history in winning a first-ever medal for the country on the World Cup circuit.

Barillas joined forces with Jose Marcelo Del Cid and Pedro Salazar in Medellin, Colombia, to earn an historic gold medal at the third stage of the 2023 Hyundai Archery World Cup.

The enormity of the achievement is still sinking in for the former recurve archer who turned to compound in 2015.

“It was the first [World Cup] medal for Guatemala,” he said. “I still don’t believe it.” 

Barillas started archery when he was 12 and has been shooting for 16 years now.

“To be in the final rounds and the format with the big screens, it was a dream come true.”

Julio Barillas, Jose Marcelo del Cid and Pedro Salazar

Guatemala beat host Colombia in the semifinal, before downing Mexico in the final to take gold, but it was the win over the USA in the quarterfinal that was the highlight.

That was the moment that Barillas and his team realised that they could achieve something truly special.

“I felt comfortable in Medellin,” he recalled. “I didn’t know I was capable of feeling that relaxed to perform under that kind of pressure. 

“Shooting well and shooting tens, I thought ‘Oh my god, I can do this’. It was a really special moment.”

And back home, the long-term impact of the win is still only starting to become clear.

“The reaction back home was amazing,” explained Barillas, whose father could not watch the final, such was the tension.

That day of the final, the region was hosting a development tournament for beginners and intermediate people – there were kids, teenagers and amateurs participating.

“The tournament was at the same time and they paused everything and put screens up to show people,” Julio explained. “It was crazy, I saw videos afterwards of people dancing, jumping, screaming, it was amazing.”

“When we got back, we got a welcome banner and everything, it was incredible.”

Julio Barillas

As well as the World Cup medal, Barillas also tasted success at the Central American and Caribbean Games  in 2023, clinching individual bronze and team gold alongside Del Cid and Salazar.

For Barillas, who has been the secretary at the national association since 2020, the success is the culmination of a lot of hard work – and also the starting point for the sport to kick on even further.

When he first took on the role, an unpaid position within the administration, the aim was to build up the number of archers competing at national level.

From approximately 25 people across all the divisions pre-pandemic, they are now up to around 70.

Now, the objective for Barillas and the association is to develop even further.

“The World Cup was special because it’s inspiring the next generation,” he added. “It’s not easy but it builds the momentum of archery here in Guatemala."

“For us, as an administration, to win a World Cup as a team, and the Central American Games as a team, as well as bronze medal in the individual, having people in the quarterfinals of the World Cup two or three times is awesome.”

Julio Barillas, Jose Marcelo del Cid and Pedro Salazar

Compound has been developing a lot in Guatemala, but the next objective is to have success in the recurve division.

The federation has started to implement a strategy with its coach, Dario Noriega, who is looking at the two branches of the national team.

”Now we are making a single line, the same way of working, the same method.”

As for Barillas, he followed up his success with a more personal highlight, getting married in October. 

Between World Cup glory and marrying the love of his life, 2023 will take some topping.

But for him and Guatemala’s archery, this is just the start of a new era.

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