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World Archery made several changes to the series this year for some exciting and unpredictable factors. For 2018, archers who won a single stage automatically qualified for the final. Then, to fill the top seven slots, any additional tickets would go to those who qualified on points over the season. The eighth seat, as always, went to an archer from the host nation. Also, only the top two archers in each division earned an automatic seed in the brackets - seeds for archers 3-8 were randomly selected at a live draw the Thursday before competition.
As the World Cup Final falls weeks after anything else in the season, archers can often spend a long time preparing, knowing who they will shoot against. The draw made it so anything could happen.
On compound Saturday, USA's Braden Gellenthien and Kris Schaff both qualified on points, with incredible seasons.
Schaff won the individual silver in Antalya and finished on the team podium at every stage all year. Schaff drew the top seed, the Netherlands' "Mister Perfect" Mike Schloesser for the quarterfinals - a rematch of the gold final in Antalya.
The two matched arrow for arrow for the first four arrows, but at the fifth, Schaff picked up one with a 10 in the midst of a perfect 30 end to take the lead 59-58. Looking confident, Schaff held strong, picking up another point with his ninth arrow just millimeters off another 30. A perfect fourth end gave Schaff a three-point advantage headed into the last three arrows. Clinching the win with a 28, Schaff edged out the World No. 1 146-145.
The victory was critical - guaranteeing a spot in the medal matches, Schaff also earned points that should put him on the U.S. world cup team for the start of the 2019 season.
In the semifinals, Schaff came up against Korea's Kim Jongho. Kim had the most impressive numbers this season of the eight competitors, but Schaff was on fire and unstoppable. After two perfect 30s, Schaff was up one point. In the third end, one of Schaff's arrows just missed the 10 ring bringing the score to an intense 89-all tie. Kim opened the door with another 29 to Schaff's unbeatable 30. Both closed the final three arrows with one arrow out of the 10 but Schaff took the strong 148-147 decision to shoot for gold.
Shooting in the final, Schaff met home-nation archer. The dark horse, Demir Elmaagacli climbed the brackets with an impressive run all day and had the loud support of the crowd behind them. Unphased, Schaff opened with a 30, followed with another, and then in the third end, one arrow scored an 8. "I knew it broke right, but I didn't know it went that far right," commented Schaff. "When it came up on the board as an 8 and the crowd went wild because it put Demir back in it, I got even more motivated."
Still up 88-87, Schaff never wavered. Opening the fourth end with a near dead center X, he closed out the match with all 10s to win 148-146 and take the World Cup Final Champion title.
After his gold win, Schaff shared: "Practice this morning wasn't going great over there, but when I came over to the finals field my nerves settled down a little bit."
Schaff's main goal was winning his first match to earn National Ranking Points to stay on the U.S. team for next season: "I came here to beat my first match and then the next two were kind of a bonus because my nerves calmed down after that first match."
On having his father in the coach's box behind him, Schaff added: "This is the second international tournament he's been to with me and his first time coaching. He's wearing my stuff from this year, he had no idea what to do this morning, I was like, 'just walk out there, stand in the box and just count for me - moral support kind of deal.' It was awesome."
Reigning 2017 World Cup Final Champion, Gellenthien was the second-place qualifier for the event after individual bronze finishes in the first two stages, a fourth-place finish at the third, and notable: a team gold and two team silver medals. Drawing India's Abishek Verma, ranked No. 5 in the world in the quarterfinals, Gellenthien sunk his first two arrows into almost the same hole in the 9, make a quick adjustment and finished first end with a 28 to Verma's 30.
He came back strong with solid triple Xs as Verma dropped two for a tied score of 58-58. Gellenthien also had his father in the coach's box for support and the two laughed off a rough third end. Verma opened the door with a 9 and 8 in the fourth end to bring the score back to a tie. On the final arrow, needing a 10 to decide the win, Gellenthien held long and his arrow soared into the 9-ring. The match went to a 144-all draw and shoot off. With a strong 10, Verma took the win and ended Gellenthien's run.
Competition resumes tomorrow with the recurve matches where Brady Ellison will make his historic 9th World Cup Final appearance. Complete results from the competition can be found at www.worldarchery.org. Follow USA Archery on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram for more from the event.
Photo: World Archery
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