By Mark Etheridge
Cape Town’s Karen Hultzer has become our first archer to win a place in Team South Africa at this year’s Olympic Games in London.
Hultzer was the only South African to meet the qualifying standards at the African Archery Championships in Rabat, Morocco, which ended on Friday. Her qualification must now be ratified by South Africa’s Olympic governing body, SASCOC.
The event ran concurrently with the African Commonwealth Championships.
Twenty countries, and around 130 archers took to the line, all hoping to secure a place at the Olympics.
In the Olympic event, South African had three qualified archers taking part in the Recurve category ÔÇô Graeme Lindner, William Frank and Hultzer.
In the compound men we had Petrus Marx and para-archer Shaun Anderson.
The Olympic qualifier round consists of 72 arrows show from a distance of 70 metres. Archers need to shoot a score of at least 620 out of a possible 720, meaning that close on every arrow must land in the gold section of the target.
As expected the standard of competition was extremely high with a number of national records broken at the games. In the open event, where countries like Switzerland, Poland and Denmark participated, new records were set for their countries, and in the case of Switzerland, two national records were set.
Seventh-ranked Lindner had a stroke of misfortune in his competition. He came up against 26th ranked Amber Bali of Kenya in the 1/16 round and progressed to shoot against 10th ranked Mohamed Jelloun (Morocco). Lindner took that match as well, which saw him progress to the quarter-finals. He then faced second ranked Egyptian National Champion Ibrahim Sabry.
Until the very last end the two were tied. Then disaster struck for Lindner. While at full draw, and requiring only a nine to take the match and make the semi-finals, a cellphone hum which reverberated loudly over the PA system distracted him and he released the arrow, costing him the match and a loss of 4:6 with only one point separating him from his component.
Then ninth-ranked Frank came up against 24th ranked Kenya and took the match 6:6 on a single arrow shootout. That saw him through to the 1/8th against Bouchaib Machi of the host nation and he was eliminated 0:6.
But there’s no doubting that Hultzer was the star of the day. On Friday, she took on the rest of Africa and come out of it all smiles.
In the 1/8 round she took on ninth-ranked Khadija Abbouda of Morocco and cleared the match 6:3. So, on to the 1/4 finals where she took on top Moroccan and national champion Btissam Farjia and took that match 6:4.
In a show of strength and determination, she then proceeded to the semi-finals and faced yet another top archer in the shape of Amira Mansour of Egypt, giving her a chance at the bronze medal match.
In this match she took on Mauritius archer Veronique Le Vieux. The latter had just faced the toughest matches in her career after taking on opponents like Carla Frangili of Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt’s Nada Kamel. In an amazing demonstration of hitting the centre of the target repeatedly, Karen took the match 7:3 and with it the bronze medal.
The IOC rules state that only one place at the Olympics may be won per country in the Continental Qualifier. As Egypt had taken first and second place, our bronze winner had earned a place for SA at the Olympics.
In the non-Olympic event, Marx progressed through the eliminations, coming up against Francois Marais of Namibia and after a tight match, where a single separated the archers at one point, pulled through with a safe win to be ranked first in the compound men category.
No 1 ranked Marx started the day with confidence, having a bye at the 1/8 and then faced ninth-ranked Mohamed Farahi of Morocco, taking that match and progressing him to the semi-finals. Here, he faced Louw Nel of Namibia, winning that match 142:136 and progressing him to the gold medal match. He then came against second ranked Francois Marais of Namibia, and in a tough match, with mild windy conditions, lost 136:145, earning him the silver medal.
The total medal count for Team South Africa was one Commonwealth gold (CMO) earned by Anderson, one Commonwealth gold earned by Marx, Lindner (RM) a Commonwealth gold, Frank (RM) one Commonwealth silver and Hultzer (RW) and Olympic bronze and one Commonwealth silver.