The VIII Merengue Archery Cup was both a world-ranking event and a qualifying event for the Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC Games) in El Salvador. Athletes from the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, United States Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Ireland, India, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, United States, France, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Martinique and the Dominican Republic battled for quota positions.
There were four divisions being contested at the Copa Merengue: Women’s Recurve, Men’s Recurve, Women’s Compound and Men’s Compound. Twenty-four countries were represented by 149 athletes. It was the goal of Team Virgin Islands to qualify both the Women’s and Men’s Recurve teams for the Central American Caribbean Games in June 2023 in San Salvador, El Salvador. The V.I. had standout performances and came away with two individual quota positions for the CAC Games.
Wednesday was the start of the qualification rounds at the Copa Merengue in Santo Domingo. The Virgin Islands Archery Federation, fielding its largest team at an international world ranking event, had a strong start to the competition. Nicholas D’Amour qualified first in the CAC Games qualifier and second in the World Ranking Event (WRE) qualifier. Mike Gerard finished 7th in the CAC Games qualifier and 11th in the WRE qualifier. Bruce Arnold finished 18th in the CAC qualifier and 27th in the WRE qualifier. Eloi George in his first international event and his first event at 70 meters finish 22nd in the CAC Games qualifier and 38th in the WRE qualifier.
The women were equally strong in their qualification rounds. Tatyana Munytan qualified 4th, Anne Abernathy 12th, Ford George 13th and Goddess George 14th in the CAC Games qualifier. In the WRE qualifier, Tatyana qualified 11th, Anne 23rd, Ford 25th and Goddess 26th. Like their father, Ford and Goddess competed in their first international event and their first event at 70 meters.
The individual finish by Nicholas D’Amour was not without a little excitement. In the fourth set of the first half of the qualification, His bow snapped a lower limb, causing a stress crack at the base of the limb. After shooting a 10 and 9, the stress crack caused the arrows to drift further and further to the left. This equipment failure cost him nearly 15 points. But he picked up his backup bow and began to battle back. By the end of the qualification round, he was one point behind Andres Aguilar of Chile. Andres finished with a 660 and Nicholas a 659.
The men’s recurve team qualified in second place to a strong veteran Cuban team and the women’s team qualified in third place behind the teams from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. With a first-round bye, the men’s team faced the winner of Venezuela and Martinique. The Women’s team faced the Dominican Republic in their first round. The top two teams in both the men’s and women’s recurve division were to qualify for the CAC Games.
After winning their match, Venezuela faced the Virgin Islands men team in the semi-finals. With the Virgin Islands leading 4-0, Venezuela battled back and tied up the match 4-4, forcing a shoot-off. Venezuela prevailed in the shoot-off. The Virgin Islands men’s team then faced Bermuda in the bronze medal match; team Virgin Islands won a convincing 5-1.
The Virgin Islands women lost to the Dominican Republic 6-0 and also had to settle for a bronze medal.
With two team bronze medals and falling short of qualifying teams, the Virgin Islands battled for individual quota spots for the CAC Games. Both men and women had opportunities to earn individual spots. When the dust settled, the Virgin Islands men swept the podium. Nicholas D’Amour, Mike Gerard and Bruce Arnold finished with a gold, a silver and a bronze medal, respectively.
On the women’s side, Tatyana Muntyan won a bronze medal, after facing teammate Anne Abernathy in the bronze medal match.
Tatyana Muntyan and Nicholas D’Amour were seeded 3 in the Mixed Team Event. They had a bye in the first round and faced Bermuda in the quarter-finals. Beating Bermuda 6-0, they advance to the semi-finals facing a strong team from Chile, losing 6-2. With this loss they moved to the bronze medal match against the number one seed Cuba. Ahead 4-2, Cuba shot a near-perfect 39 to the Virgin Islands’ 38, winning the fourth set to force a shoot off, both women archers shot 7s and both men shot an X, for a 17-17 tie. Unfortunately, Cuba’s arrow was a couple of millimeters closer to the center. The Virgin Islands mixed team had to settle for 4th place.
The next step in the tournament was the World Ranking Event. Three men and four women from Team Virgin Islands started the 1/16 round. The Virgin Islands Women’s team: Goddess George, Ford George and Anne Abernathy finished tied for 17th; and Tatyana Muntyan finished tied for 9th. On the men’s side: Eloi George tied for 33rd, Bruce Arnold finished tied for 17th and Mike Gerard finished tied for 9th.
Nicholas D’Amour had the standout performance of the entire tournament. He only dropped two sets in the entire tournament. As D’Amour advanced to the gold medal match in the World Ranking event, he beat Aidan Saliger of the USA 6-0, Heriberto Jimenez of the Dominican Republic 6-2, Kevin Perez of Venezuela 6-0 and in the semi-finals Adrian Puentes 6-0. He faced veteran Hugo Franco of Cuba in the gold medal match on Sunday. In spite of continuing equipment issues, D’Amour defeated Franco 6-4.