The AAE Arizona Cup is a World Ranking Event, Para World Ranking Event and the first United States Archery Team qualifier for 2014. This tournament – the unofficial “season opener” for outdoor archery – allows competitors to earn world and national ranking points.
Held at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, the AAE Arizona Cup boasts a whopping 528 archers competing, shattering last year’s record attendance numbers. With 20 countries sending their Olympic, Paralympic and World Championship squads, this event is shaping up to be a sneak peek at the list of Rio 2016 contenders.
It’s not just adults competing, either; there’s heavy participation in the cadet (ages 15-17) and junior (ages 18-20) divisions, with many of the world’s best youth archers using this event as preparation for the Olympic Trials that will begin next year.
Archery fans know this sport is famous for shakeups and surprises, and with wind always a factor in Phoenix, this weekend will be no exception. Add the world’s best archery talent to the mix, and anything is possible. With that, here are our finalist predictions for Sunday’s head to head elimination rounds.
Ana Maria Rendon – Colombia (Recurve Women)
This Olympian was first for qualifications by 13 points with a field-leading 657, and we think she’s on fire! The question is, can Rendon maintain her calm through Sunday’s elimination rounds?
LaNola Pritchard – USA (Recurve Women)
This archer lives and trains in Chula Vista, California at the Olympic Training Center. With full time training, top coaching, youth, and determination on her side, we think she might shake up the podium.
Michelle Gilbert – USA (Recurve Women)
Michelle has been attending school at Texas A&M University, as part of one of the nation’s best collegiate archery programs. This Aggie, ranked 4th in the country, may be one of the most petite archers on the field, but she’s fierce with a bow in hand.
Others worth watching: Khatuna Lorig (USA), Pia Carmen Lionetti (Italy), Jennifer Hardy (USA) and Mariana Avitia (Mexico).
Sergio Pagni – Italy (Compound Men)
Sergio is nicknamed “The Sultan of Smooth” for a reason – he delivers a powerful punch on the competition field while smiling and displaying one of the most calm and relaxed attitudes out there.
Braden Gellenthien – USA (Compound Men)
Braden has been on fire internationally since winning the 2012 World Cup Final in Tokyo. This archer is known for his intensity and decisive, powerful shots, and that will help him during what is sure to be tough match play in the finals on Sunday.
Pierre Julien Deloche – France (Compound Men)
PJ Deloche is one of the strongest compound archers on the international scene. A sailor in the French Navy, Deloche has managed to train and compete while still serving his country. We think he’ll be tough to beat this weekend.
Others worth watching: Reo Wilde (USA), Steve Anderson (USA), Rodger Willett, Jr. (USA), Bridger Deaton (USA), Jesse Broadwater (USA), Julio Fierro (MEX)
Brady Ellison – USA (Recurve Men)
Hometown advantage can be important, and Ellison is the local boy who has earned several gold medals on this very field. This Olympic medalist has been in serious training mode recently, and we think he’s back in full force for the 2014 season.
Marco Galiazzo – Italy (Recurve Men)
A three time Olympic medalist, Galiazzo was part of the team that took gold from the United States at London 2012. One of the most experienced archers on the international circuit, Galiazzo can be very difficult to stop when he’s ahead.
Juan Rene Serrano – Mexico (Recurve Men)
The top qualifier at the Beijing Olympic Games, Serrano had a solid 2013 season and took three total medals (team and individual) in World Cup events last year. Serrano brings a strong shot and confidence to a tough field.
Others worth watching: Michele Frangilli (ITA), Jake Kaminski (USA), Collin Klimitchek (USA), Jacob Wukie (USA), Jeremiah Cusick (USA), Luis Alvarez (MEX)
Linda Ochoa – Mexico (Compound Women)
This archer shot a field-leading 695 out of 720 at the Versus Mexico tournament last weekend. Ranked 10th in the world, Ochoa will definitely benefit from a medal winning performance this weekend.
Erika Jones – USA (Compound Women)
Ranked first in the world, Jones was nearly impossible to stop during the 2013 outdoor season. She’s achieved two world records in the past nine months, and seems poised to continue raising the bar in 2014.
Sara Lopez – Colombia (Compound Women)
Lopez burst onto the international scene in 2013, setting a new world record, earning four World Cup medals, and earning three World Championships medals in adult and youth events. She’s ready to rock in Arizona.
Others who could shake up the podium: Christie Colin (USA), Maja Marcen (COL), Lexi Keller (USA), Crystal Gauvin (USA), Sarah Lance (USA), Pascale Lebecque (FRA), Jamie Van Natta (USA)
This tournament is also a Para World Ranking event, which means archers with physical disabilities are also competing for world ranking points. This is a great chance to see several Rio 2016 contenders in action. Some of our American favorites:
Jeff Fabry – USA (Compound Men W1)
The reigning Paralympic champion in the compound men’s W1 class, Fabry shoots his compound bow using a mouth tab, which essentially means he shoots with his teeth. ‘Nuff said.
Martha Chavez – USA (Compound Open Women)
Together with teammates D’Arce Hess and Ashlee Sheppard, Chavez achieved an historic silver medal at the World Archery Para Championships in 2013 – Team USA’s first in this category.
Eric Bennett – USA (Compound Open Men)
Bennett had a strong individual finish at the London 2012 Paralympic Games – but with a recurve bow. He switched to compound in 2013, and is achieving international success already. Bonus points: when not shooting, Bennett coaches some of the country’s top young archers.
Kinga Kiss-Johnson – USA (Recurve Open Women)
A U.S. Army veteran, Kiss-Johnson competed in her first World Championships last year, and is making strides in the recurve women’s open class. She’ll face tough competition in this division from Lee Ford and others, but Kiss-Johnson is one to watch.
Michael Lukow – USA (Recurve Open Men)
Lukow, also a veteran, has achieved significant archery success since he began in 2008. After an explosive claimed his foot in Iraq, Lukow became part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, and has competed internationally for Team USA.
Other favorites for the Para World Ranking Event: Matt Stuzman (USA), Lee Ford (USA), Lance Thornton (USA).