The most recent World Archery Para Championships brought a new mix of champions to the fore. A little over six months ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, these breakthrough stars are poised to make the competition in Japan’s capital a particularly exciting one as they try to prove they are not one-hit wonders and solidify their names in Para archery history.
David Drahoninsky (CZE)
Drahoninsky is a role model of consistency in the Para archery world. His long list of accolades goes back to his gold in the men’s individual compound W1 at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. He also took silver medals in the same event at London 2012 and Rio 2016. After almost two decades in the sport, the world No. 2 is still in top competitive form, most recently winning the bronze medal at the 2019 Worlds, and aiming even higher at his fourth Paralympic Games.
Bahattin Hekimoglu (TUR)
Hekimoglu had a lot of expectations placed on him coming to the 2019 World Championships as a European champion and top seed. He rose to the challenge in grand fashion, winning the gold medal in the men’s W1 by beating China’s Li Ji 136-134 in a dramatic final, as well as helping Turkey to defend their W1 men’s team title. He is currently ranked No.1 in the world.
Suresh Selvathamby (MAL)
On the opposite end of the spectrum to the sports veterans there is the dazzling newcomer to the Para archery scene, Suresh Selvathamby. The 26-year-old archer made his world championships debut in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands in 2019 while ranked 35 in the world and left the competition with a gold medal in the men’s recurve open and the world No.1 ranking. Tokyo 2020 will be his first Paralympic Games.
Matt Stutzman (USA)
Stutzman is one of the most recognisable faces in Para archery. Also known as the “Armless Archer” for his unique shooting style, Stutzman won silver in the men’s individual compound at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and was one of the favourites for gold at Rio 2016. Although he ended up losing in the round of 16 and taking a break from the sport, the dream of capturing Paralympic gold never left him. Stutzman has taken part in multiple able-bodied competitions since Rio 2016 to improve his skills and took bronze at the 2019 Worlds after losing 144-142 in a close semifinal against teammate Ben Thompson.
Ben Thompson (USA)
Thompson is one of the most compelling comeback stories of the past year. The USA archer took a break from the sport in the second half of 2018 to recover from a long injury and did not pick up a bow again until April 2019 during trials for the upcoming World Championships. Barely making it onto the team, Thompson went on to win the gold medal in the men’s compound open two months later in a dazzling final that saw him shoot all but two arrows into the 10-ring.
Nur Syahidah Alim (SGP)
Alim proved she can withstand great pressure when her final duel in the women’s compound open at the 2019 World Championships - her career first - went into a shoot-off. The 34-year-old was calm as she took down Paralympic champion Stretton, once the two women tied at 141 points after five ends, to become Singapore’s first ever world champion.
Elena Krutova (RUS)
Krutova has made stable progress since making her international debut in archery in 2014. The Russian athlete moved up from fifth place in the women’s W1 at the 2017 World Championships in Beijing to top spot at the 2019 edition of the tournament. Her gold in ’s-Hertogenbosch, where she beat Korea’s Kim Ok Geum with a convincing 130-107 score in the final, was her first individual world title. To make the victory sweeter, it also helped to bump her to the world No.1 ranking.
Zhou Jiamin (CHN)
A role model on and off the archery range, Zhou is one of China’s top hopes for a gold finish at Tokyo 2020. The young archer won gold in the women’s individual compound open at the 2016 Paralympic Games. This accomplishment gave her a chance to make a difference back home, as a representative of the People’s Congress in her home city Zhejiang where she interacted with people with impairments. She picked up two team gold medals at the 2019 World Championships and is in top form heading to her second Paralympic Games.
Zahra Nemati (IRI)
One of the biggest names in the sport, Nemati has been ticking off historical milestones in archery and breaking boundaries for female athletes since she won gold at the 2015 Asian Para Championships. She will be going for her third consecutive gold at Tokyo 2020 after being crowned Paralympic champion in the women’s individual recurve open at London 2012 and Rio 2016. In London she became the first Iranian woman to win gold at the Paralympic Games and in Rio she competed at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Jessica Stretton (GBR)
Stretton was the youngest archer at Rio 2016 and a surprise winner in the women’s individual compound W1. At Tokyo 2020, the challenge will be far greater. Not only is Stretton getting more attention as a returning Paralympic champion, but she hopes to repeat the feat in a new division. The 19-year-old recently switched to the compound open in which she won silver at the 2019 Worlds, setting a new para world record in the process. She also won bronze at the World Youth Championships in August 2019 where she was the only athlete in a wheelchair.