PARIS: Star compound archer Abhishek Verma stunned American heavyweight Kris Schaff in a shoot-off to bag a gold medal at the Archery World Cup Stage 3 here on Saturday.
Verma's effort has come two months after he along with the Indian team was stopped from board the flight for the first stage of the meet in Guatemala City following their coach's false positive COVID-19 test report .
India archers are also in the fray for three more medals in the women's recurve individual, team and mixed pair events with world number three Deepika Kumari eyeing a hat-trick of titles.
In a nail-biting final, the duo dropped just two points each to be locked 148-all after the regulation five ends before a calm and composed Verma sealed the issue in the shoot off (10-9) with a perfect score.
"That's archery, it's all about hits and misses. My heart beat went up so I just calmed myself down and kept my focus on the next arrow," Verma, who last won an individual World Cup gold in Wroclaw 2015, said.
The 32-year-old Indian, who had qualified as 11th seed six places behind Schaff, had a dream start to the final hitting three Xs -- all perfect 10s closest to the centre.
Verma, who was playing his first International after about two years, continued his perfect run (90 out of 90) till the third end to lead by two points.
@archer_abhishek won Medal at #WorldCup Stage - 3 held at #Paris, #France. This is his Second Individual Gold medal in World Cups.— ARCHERY ASSOCIATION OF INDIA (@india_archery) June 26, 2021
We are proud of you! #IndianArchery @ntpclimited @WeAreTeamIndia #archery #ArcheryWorldCup #worldarchery pic.twitter.com/dYRxIWFVBB
But the American fifth seed bounced back strongly in the fourth end with three perfect 10s including two Xs to put pressure on Verma who dropped his first point in the final arrow.
Having cut the deficit by one point going into the final end, Schaff mounted more pressure on Verma, drilling three perfect 10s.
Needing three perfect scores (30) to seal the issue, Verma shot 29, dropping one point in his second arrow as the match went into the shootoff.
Schaff failed to drill his arrow into the inner ring to start off with a 9 as Verma seized the moment with a 10 for his second World Cup individual gold.
Earlier Verma defeated Anton Bulaev of Russia 146-138 to make his first World Cup final since Salt Lake City 2018 where he had finished with a silver.
Starting off with 29, the Indian trailed by one point after the second end with Bulaev shooting three perfect 10s.
But Verma bounced back strongly with another 29 in the third, before stepping up in the penultimate end with three perfect 10s.
Heading into the final end with a three point lead, Verma finished it off in style with three 10s including one closest to the centre (X).
The Indian compound archers had last competed in the Asian Championships in Bangkok in November 2019 where the duo of Verma and Jyothi Surekha Vennam had upset Chinese Taipei to clinch a gold medal.
They were slated to play their first tournament since the pandemic struck in the first stage of the World Cup in Guatemala City.
The Patiala-based compound team were headed to New Delhi airport to join the recurve team headed for Guatemala City but the federation stopped them midway after learning that their coach had tested positive in the camp.
Incidentally, the coach had stayed back and all other archers tested negative before embarking their journey but the federation did not want to "take any risk" and barred them from travelling.
As it turned out later the coach had a "false positive" report but the damage had been done by then.