By Martin Cleary
Archery Canada has secured a prized men’s individual recurve class quota berth for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, thanks to a stunning silver-medal effort by Ottawa’s Eric Peters at the recent world archery championships in Berlin.
But with only one men’s recurve ticket available and two more-than-fully-qualified international archers worthy of the trip to Paris, how will this mystery play out over the next eight months?
“Now, we have another 300-odd days to figure out who is going to take it,” Peters told Sportsbeat, a content and communications agency with offices in London and Manchester, England.
Only time and future individual results will solve this conundrum for Toronto’s Crispin Duenas, a four-time Olympian (2008-2020) and Peters, who hasn’t experienced the Olympics as an athlete.
But the archery thriller could have a happy ending as early as the Pan-American Games, where Canada could secure another men’s recurve quota position with a first- or second-place finish. There are also later opportunities including a separate Pan-Am continental qualifier and a late-April World Cup competition in Shanghai.
Since a second quota spot is uncertain at this time, Peters, 26, and Duenas, 37, will be aiming and shooting for their best results possible in the final stretch to the Olympics. Peters and Duenas also were locked in a similar battle for one Canadian berth heading towards the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Their Road to Paris starts Friday with the opening of the Pan-Am Games in Santiago, Chile. The Games, which will be used by Canada as an Olympic qualifying tool in 21 sports/disciplines, will end Nov. 5.
Peters and Duenas will be part of Team Canada’s eight-member archery team at the Pan-Am Games. Their results will be the first data submitted to Archery Canada to help determine who to send to Paris in men’s individual recurve. International results over the next eight months also will be considered.
The 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, had a heavy Canadian content as Duenas won the men’s recurve title and Peters was the bronze medallist. They also were golden in the men’s team event. The Santiago Pan-Am Games will be the fifth for Duenas and the second for Peters.
Based on recent results and rankings entering the Olympic countdown stretch, Peters may have a slight momentum advantage. Peters, who is ranked No. 13 in the world, is a full-time University of Waterloo science student and full-time archer, while Duenas, who is ranked No. 135th in the world, is a high school teacher and part-time athlete.
And it was Peters who secured the Olympic men’s recurve quota spot in his historic performance at the Berlin world archery championships. His silver-medal performance was the first by a Canadian male in that discipline at the worlds. Canadian Dorothy Lidstone won a women’s recurve silver medal at the 1969 world championships. But Peters’ worlds podium doesn’t guarantee him a trip to the Paris Olympics.
Peters, who has been slowly climbing the international ladder with four World Cup top-10 performances since 2021, was unstoppable during his magical run at the Berlin worlds. At the 2021 worlds in Yankton, South Dakota, Peters was 33rd.
Two weeks after the Berlin worlds, he competed in the Paris World Cup, which was considered a pre-Olympic test. He was seeded 24th and finished seventh overall.
At the Berlin worlds, he faced four world top-11 archers and defeated three of them. After qualifying 36th in the field of 167 archers, he won four straight bracket matches – Sweden’s Kaj Sjobert, 6-0; Germany’s Maximilian Weckmuller, 6-2; Korea’s Lee Woo-seok (world No. 7), 7-3; and Germany’s Florian Unruh (world No. 2), 6-4 – to advance to the Final Eight playoff round on Aug. 6.
Peters defeated fifth-seeded and world No. 11 Steve Wijler of The Netherlands 6-4 in the quarterfinals and 49th-seeded Arif Dwi Pangestu of Indonesia 6-4 in the semifinals. His quarter-final match was particularly challenging because of a torrential rainstorm on the main competition stage.
When he reached the gold-medal final, 2020 Olympic champion Mete Gazoz, the world No. 6, was waiting for him. Gazoz, 24, has an impressive resume with a men’s team recurve silver medal at the Berlin worlds and a mixed team bronze from the 2021 worlds. He also has earned three gold, four silver and eight bronze medals at World Cup competitions since 2018.
But Peters, who was totally relaxed for the final with flamboyant team staff member Joe Leszner in the coach’s box, was steady and accurate throughout as he pushed the match to the maximum five sets. In the end, he lost the fifth and final set by one point, 29-28.
The final score for the match was 6-4 for Gazoz as each archer earned two points for winning a set (three arrows each) and one point for tying a set.
Peters won the first set 28-27, but Gazoz rebounded winning the next two 30-28 and 28-24. A fourth-round score of 30-28 allowed Peters to tie the match and force the decisive fifth set.
“My brain is fried,” Peters said in an Archery Canada news release. “It has been great and I’m lost for words. It’s better than I could have expected.”
Peters has shown the potential for an international breakthrough and it happened in Berlin. In the past 11 months, he was fifth at the Antalya, Turkey, World Cup in April and the Pan American championships last November in Santiago.
During his five World Cup meets in 2022, he was eighth in Guatemala City and ninth in Gwangju, Korea.
“I have always known I have had the ability,” Peters told Sportsbeat, after his best-ever international performance. “It was close, but it is good.
“It sucks (narrowly missing the gold medal), but I have a lot to look forward to. I am just as surprised as other people.”
Almost a year ago, Shawn Riggs departed as Archery Canada’s national team coach and Ron van der Hoff, formerly The Netherlands’ head coach, became the temporary Canadian team head coach.
“It has been hard (without a permanent coach), but it doesn’t mean we have been unable to find some success, silver linings and all,” Peters added.
“It has been great (working with van der Hoff), but we haven’t had the same structure that we have had over the last couple of years. We have been working really hard and trying to figure it out without full-time coaching, but I think we have done something.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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