SINGAPORE – She did not know it then, but a spirited comeback in Thursday’s (March 12) semi-final was enough for archer Contessa Loh to win Singapore’s first women’s gold medal at the first leg of the Asia Cup in Bangkok.

She trailed her Kazakh Adel Zhexenbinova twice in the 15-shot match but kept her composure and focus to triumph 143-142 and advance to Saturday’s final of the women’s individual compound event.

Loh, 25, was scheduled to face another Kazakh, Diana Makarchuk but was awarded the gold after a walkover.

Makarchuk and the rest of her teammates had abruptly left Bangkok on Friday night after Thai authorities cancelled visa grants for the Central Asian nation and 17 other countries as part of measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Loh told The Straits Times over the phone: “It was all very sudden… (Makarchuk) and I were very excited about facing each other because all the scores up to that point had been very close.”

Still, the Singaporean was pleased with how her first outdoor competition of the year unfolded. She had beaten another Kazakh, Viktoriya Lyan, 145-140 in the quarter-final, and before pipping Zhexenbinova in the semi-final in a topsy-turvy match.

Loh trailed twice and headed into the final three arrows trailing by a point, but shot two 10s and a nine in her last three shots which proved enough.

“(The win) feels good because this is something I’ve worked towards since last year,” she said.

“I finished the same stage third last year, then I had a bit of a slump, finishing fourth at the SEA Games (in the Philippines in December), and I worked a lot with my sports team trying to find new ways to improve.

“And I think I came into this competition with a stronger mindset.”

The Bangkok tournament drew 118 archers from 12 countries. It is first of four scheduled Asia Cup with the next leg in Gwangju, South Korea from May 22-27.

Loh, who is a SpexScholar, added the win in Bangkok was a boost to her ambitions of qualifying for this year’s Archery World Cup finals, scheduled for Shanghai in Sept 26-27.

Although the competition and its qualifying events are in doubt because of the Covid-19 situation, Loh is keeping a positive outlook.

“Right now it’s a lot of watching and monitoring how things unfold. In the meantime, I’ll just go back and keep shooting,” she said.

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