As we’re nearing time for the highest level of competition for archery – the Olympic games in Tokyo – now seems like the ideal time to examine which competitors will be favored to take home the gold. In this article we focus on the top female archers, each of whom has a chance to make history for themselves and their respective countries. Of course, this list will also include best female archers in the world who are not competing in the games this year, assuming their track record over the past few seasons warrants placement regardless of their olympic standings.
Recency plays a factor, in that archeresses who have dominated the past year are more likely to be at the top of their games than those who have routinely finished among the top 10 in sanctioned competitions, but it will not discredit those who have shown consistent excellence over several years.
- Kang Chae-young – One of the many talented archers from South Korea, Chae-young is called “The Destroyer” in reverence to her domination of the sport over the past several years. And while she is currently 3rd in the world in terms of the World Rankings, she is considered by many to be the best female archer in the world. This title comes after her play from 2017 until the pandemic limited her ability to compete after 2019. During this two-year span, Chae-young struck gold at the Archery World Championships in Mexico City and Hertogenbosch, Netherlands in 2017 and 2019, respectively (3 golds); the 2018 Asian Games (1 team gold); the 2019 Hyundai Archery World Cup (1 gold); the 2018 games in Jakarta (1 gold); and the 2019 Asian World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand (3 golds). Chae-young is also the current world record holder in the 70m round score after she accomplished a 692 at the 2019 World Archery Championships.
- Deepika Kumari – Competing out of Ranchi, India, this 27-year-old archer burst onto the scene way back in 2010, winning the recurve competition at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. She would strike gold again at the 2013 Asian Archery Championships in the team competition. Her most recent victory – and the one which propelled her to a current number 1 ranking in the world – came at the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Guatemala City. This year’s competition will mark her third straight Olympic games, where she hopes to improve India’s standing on the international archery stage. Deepika is a living legend in her native country, as her life has already been documented on Netflix in the short biographical film ‘Ladies First’. In 2016, she received the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award granted in India, given to citizens “in recognition of their distinguished contribution in various spheres of activity”.
- Lisa Barbelin – A French archer who has mastered the recurve bow and recurve archery equipment, Barbelin arrives at the Olympics riding the wave of a definitive victory in the 2021 European Archery Championships in Antalya, Turkey. She has qualified to represent France in the individual women’s recurve competition at the upcoming games, and she will also compete in the team archery competition using the same bow. The French are riding somewhat beneath the radar due to strong performances by the Korean teams, but Barbelin has the potential to turn the tide in her country’s favor if she performs as well as she did in Turkey this year.
- Lei Chien-Ying – Chinese Taipei’s most accomplished archer continued her run of excellence in the women’s recurve archery with a win at the 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. Chien-Ying competed in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, winning a bronze medal, and she hopes to bring home a gold in Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics (in 2021). Lei has the distinction of being the first archer from Chinese Taipei to win a world title in any event, and like Kumari is to India, she is a living legend in her homeland.
- Tanja Gelenthian – This is the lone practitioner of the compound bow on this list, which is more because the recurve has steeper competition, but not for lack of talent. Gelenthin is the current #1 in the world in women’s compound archery, and bears honorable mention despite the lack of Olympic competition. Gelenthian’s most recent victory was a compelling match against Andrea Marcos in the 2019 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Lausanne, Switzerland.
These rankings are obviously subject to change depending on the outcome of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, especially considering the top 4 women are each competing in both the individual and team competitions. Sweeping the gold medals in each category would certainly catapult an archer to number 1 in terms of public opinion, if not in the World Archery rankings. However, Chae-young has a chance to solidify her position as the best female archer of our generation, as well as her place among the best female archers of all-time.