As she grew up, Fatimah Al Mashhadani knew archery was important to her family. It just took time for her passion for the sport to blossom.

And now, the 17-year-old archer from Iraq is not only continuing her family’s legacy, she has made her own mark in international competition.

Al Mashhadani, with a handful of top-5 finishes at various prestigious tournaments, leads the Compound Cadet Women’s division at the World Archery Youth Championships (WAYC), which began Tuesday in Yankton with qualification rounds.

“I have my duty and my dreams,” the Iraqi archer said through translation from a coach.

Al Mashhadani’s sister, Rand, represented their home country in the 2012 London Olympics, and her father is the head of the Iraqi Archery Federation.

She has spent the last month training in Antalya, Turkey, because their home in Iraq doesn’t have the kinds of facilities – only a small family garden – that would prepare her for big-time tournaments.

Those kinds of disadvantages haven’t slowed down Al Mashhadani, however.

She finished fifth in her division at the 2013 WAYC in China, and last year finished second in two prestigious events: Archery World Cup Stage 3 in Turkey and a European Grand Prix in Bulgaria.

That run of success continued Tuesday, as Al Mashhadani leads her compound division by four shots (680-676) over Dahlia Crook of the United States and Evelien Groeneveld of the Netherlands.

“It was very nice for me because the wind was an extra challenge,” Al Mashhadani said.

While there could have been another significant challenge in traveling to Yankton, that wasn’t her biggest obstacle, Al Mashhadani said. It was the 8-hour time difference.

There hasn’t been enough time for her body to acclimate to Yankton time, so she has been waking up around 2 a.m. since she arrived.

“I am focused on my on shooting and my duty,” she added.

Helping her in those efforts have been the support system around her, Al Mashhadani said. She thanked her coach Majid Ahmadi (who is back home in his native Iran) and her mother for their support.

“If my mother cannot come with me, it’s no good,” Al Mashhadani said. “She always comes with me.”

As the tournament moves into individual matches today (Wednesday), Al Mashhadani will face off against Canada’s Fiona Maude. Facing tough competition is nothing new for Al Mashhadani, who said she doesn’t back down from any competitor, no matter how good they are.

“It’s god and myself,” she said.

-- Jeremy Hoeck

Qualification Day

On the first official day (Tuesday) of the WAYC, competitors participated in a qualifying round.

Individuals competing are split into divisions by age groups 15-17 and 18-20, whether they shoot a recurve bow or a compound bow, and by gender. In qualification each archer will shoot a total of 72 arrows at the target to receive a score. The scores are then taken to rank each archer in their respective division and used to seed the bracket for the tournament. Bracket play contains one on one matches between archers until one, the champion, is left standing, just like any other playoff bracket in sports.

Archers have to get there mind in the right spot for qualifying rounds and that’s what Jan Van Tongeren of the Netherlands did and placed in second after qualification, for the Recurve Cadet Men’s division, earning himself a bye until the round of 16.

“We are all good arches, so just shoot your best and see where you rank,” Van Tongeren said. “It says nothing, but it is a good feeling because I am shooting good.”

For Canada’s Aaron Cox, it was just another day at the office.

“The mindset you should have is it’s like all the other thousands of arrows that you have shot,” Cox said. “Just do everything the way you always have, with no pressure, keep a smile on your face, and just relax.”

Cox finished 64th in qualifying and will face off against 49th ranked Ludvig Flink of Sweden.

“The second half of shooting was pretty good and the heat and wind did not bother me,” Flink said. “My mindset was just shooting good and feeling good shots and just having fun.”

The first two rounds of matches will be played on Wednesday, while the round of 16 will start play Thursday, the semifinals on Friday, and the finals for Recurve Cadet Men will be on Sunday.

-- Michael Hammond

Defending Champ Starts Strong

Two years ago at the WAYC in Wuxi, China, Domagoj Buden put together a memorable week and won the gold medal in the Compound Cadet men’s division.

He’s back, albeit in a new division, and off to a solid start in his quest for a repeat.

Buden, a 17-year-old archer from Croatia, sits in fourth place in the Junior division after his round of 697 on Tuesday – seven shots behind leader Stephan Hansen of Denmark.

“The whole competition is absolutely fabulous,” Buden said. “It was one of the fastest qualifications I’ve ever been through. It was over pretty much before we started.”

Buden has been to many archery tournaments, but never one in a town the size of Yankton, with under 15,000 residents.

“This one (tournament) is better organized, actually,” he said. “China was a huge city, and I still like big cities. I wouldn’t have minded if they had this in Central Park in New York (City).”

By virtue of his performance Tuesday, Buden has a bye into the Round of 16 in the Compound Cadet division, which enters bracket head-to-head shooting today (Wednesday).

Not bad for someone who wasn’t feeling overly confident heading into Yankton.

“I wasn’t really confident at all, to be honest, because I hadn’t been consistent,” Buden said. “But everything felt right (Tuesday).”

-- Jeremy Hoeck

Olympic Ambitions

The recurve archers at the World Archery Youth Championship may be young but they are still competing on the world stage, many of them with goals of making or winning the Olympics.

Netherland’s Jan Van Tongeren shoots recurve bows for a reason.

“It’s Olympic and I have never really liked compound,” Van Tongeren said. “I would like to make the Olympics in 2020.”

Ludvig Flink of Sweden has set higher goals than just making the Olympics.

“I want to try to win the Olympics,” Flink said. “I try to put my effort in making the Olympics in 2020 and maybe win 2024 or 2028 or something like that.”

This tournament is just the beginning for some of the world’s best potential archers.

-- Michael Hammond

Brazilian In First Place

Marcus D’almeida, a 17-year-old archer from Brazil, has made a habit of threatening for a gold medal at international tournaments.

He’s off to a good start in Yankton.

D’almeida leads the Recurve Cadet Men’s division by one shot after Tuesday’s qualification around, and like everyone else, had to battle the heat and wind.

“It was very nice shooting,” he said through translation from a coach. “The wind was very strong, but I’m happy to be at a world championship.”

D’almeida finished second at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing (China) and second at the Archery World Cup 2014 Stage 4 in Poland. He is now competing in his first WAYC.

“I’m looking forward to some high scores,” D’almeida said. “I just want to do my best.”

-- Jeremy Hoeck

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