Experienced compound archer Abhishek Verma stunned American star Kris Schaff in a shoot-off to bag a gold medal at the Archery World Cup Stage 3 in Paris on Saturday.

In a neck-and-neck final clash, the duo dropped just two points each to be locked 148-all after the regulation five ends. Verma had started the final in sensational fashion, with 10s in his first 11 shots. But two 9s in his last five shots resulted in a tied after 15 attempts.

The world number five Schaff started the shoot-off with a nine and Verma, showing nerve of steel, clinched the contest in style with a perfect 10 to open India’s account at the tournament in Paris.

It was Verma’s second individual World Cup gold medal. The 32-year-old Indian last won an individual gold medal in 2015 at World Cup Stage 3 in Wroclaw.

“That is the name of archery: sometimes you miss, and sometimes you hit,” Verma said. “For that time, I just managed myself, controlled my increasing heart rate and so many things in my mind. I told myself to calm down and focus on my shooting, and I did,” Verma said after the intense finish, adding that it has been a long wait for him to return to action after a couple of seasons. India’s compound archers did not take part in the first two World Cups of the season.

“I think that pressure affected me in a positive way. I think it was good for me,” he added.

The gold medal also ensures a place for Verma in the World Cup final later this year. He was the only Indian compound archer to enter medal rounds in the third stage World Cup in Paris.

Earlier Verma, ranked 22 in the world, 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.

Verma was the top-seeded Indian archer at Paris after qualifying for the knockout rounds in 11th position. Schaff had qualified in the 5th position.

Starting off with 29, the Indian trailed by one point 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).

India are eyeing three more medals in the recurve team, individual and mixed pair event, slated for Sunday with world number three Deepika Kumari in line for a potential hat-trick of gold medals.

With PTI inputs