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Tokyo 2020: How South Korea have become invincible in archery

Every step of the way in every match, the Koreans found something special to pull ahead. In the quarters, India shot a 54 (out of a possible 60) in the first set in reply to Korea's opening of 59.
By Nilankur Das, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 26, 2021 08:46 PM IST
PREMIUM
From left; Gold medal winners South Korea's Kim Je Deok, Kim Woojin, and Oh Jinhyek(AP)

South Korean archers clinched gold in the Olympics men's team event on Monday, again, extending their reign and winning the country's third archery gold at the Tokyo Games. This was the men's team's sixth Olympics gold since team events were introduced in 1988. Kim Je-deok, already a South Korean television talent show star as an archery genius at 17, was the heart and soul of this team, egging on his seniors Kim Woojin (29) and 39-year-old Oh Jin-hyek throughout their golden run. They beat India in the quarters, Japan in the semis and Chinese Taipei in the final.

Every step of the way in every match, the Koreans found something special to pull ahead. In the quarters, India shot a 54 (out of a possible 60) in the first set in reply to Korea's opening of 59. In the second set, Tarundeep Rai, Pravin Jadhav and Atanu Das shot a 57 and it brought smiles to their faces. Korea replied hitting 59 again.

During the semi-final tie-breaker against hosts Japan, chasing 28 out of a possible 30, Kim Je-deok needed to hit a 10 to keep South Korea in the match. He hit the bullseye. In the final, Chinese Taipei shot 58 in the second set. South Korea replied with a perfect 60. Over the years, South Korea have simply pulled out exactly the right shot at the right time, bettering opponents just when they felt they had a chance.

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On Sunday, the South Korean women bagged their ninth consecutive team gold in Olympics. In fact, the women's team is yet to lose a single match at the Games since Seoul 1988. This is a dominance to beat all stories of invincibility at the Olympics--no other team in any sport has a record as unblemished.

South Korean coach Lim Chae Woon had a couple of stints with the Indian team between 2000-2010. Throughout his tenures, he said India did not have a big enough pool of archers to build a world beating team. According to Rathin Dutta, a former World Archery official, Koreans are introduced to archery at the primary school level. The screening begins there and continues through high school and university. After graduation, top corporate houses, which have their own archery teams, recruit these archers. According to Dutta, in 2012 before the London Games, there were 33 corporate archery teams in Korea. And Korea's elite pool of archers was around 150 strong. At that time, India's not so elite pool including men and women was 16.

Another Korean coach, Moon Beck Woong, who was recruited by India's Mittal Champions' Trust before the London Games had said South Korea had built a replica of the Beijing Games venue for its archers to train more than a year before the competition's start. India had not sealed their Olympic qualification berths till a couple of months before the Games. In the lead up to this Games, the Korean archers again got to practice in range that was a replica of the Tokyo venue.

The other aspect both Lim and Woong stressed on was mental conditioning. Kim Youngsook of the Korean Institute of Sports Science, who is the team's mental conditioning coach since 2012, told World Archery recently: “In other sports, sports psychology is typically only about 20 to 30% of performance. In archery, it’s probably closer to 80%. The real deciding factor of performance in archery is an archer’s mental strength and confidence.”

Koreans archers and coaches are generally very secretive about what they really do to improve mental strength. According to Lim, bungee-jumping and sessions held on the sidelines of packed baseball stadiums were often used to enhance an archer's concentration and overcome fear.

South Korean archers clinched gold in the Olympics men's team event on Monday, again, extending their reign and winning the country's third archery gold at the Tokyo Games. This was the men's team's sixth Olympics gold since team events were introduced in 1988. Kim Je-deok, already a South Korean television talent show star as an archery genius at 17, was the heart and soul of this team, egging on his seniors Kim Woojin (29) and 39-year-old Oh Jin-hyek throughout their golden run. They beat India in the quarters, Japan in the semis and Chinese Taipei in the final.

Every step of the way in every match, the Koreans found something special to pull ahead. In the quarters, India shot a 54 (out of a possible 60) in the first set in reply to Korea's opening of 59. In the second set, Tarundeep Rai, Pravin Jadhav and Atanu Das shot a 57 and it brought smiles to their faces. Korea replied hitting 59 again.

During the semi-final tie-breaker against hosts Japan, chasing 28 out of a possible 30, Kim Je-deok needed to hit a 10 to keep South Korea in the match. He hit the bullseye. In the final, Chinese Taipei shot 58 in the second set. South Korea replied with a perfect 60. Over the years, South Korea have simply pulled out exactly the right shot at the right time, bettering opponents just when they felt they had a chance.

RELATED STORIES

On Sunday, the South Korean women bagged their ninth consecutive team gold in Olympics. In fact, the women's team is yet to lose a single match at the Games since Seoul 1988. This is a dominance to beat all stories of invincibility at the Olympics--no other team in any sport has a record as unblemished.

ALSO READ | Tokyo Olympics 2020 Full Coverage

South Korean coach Lim Chae Woon had a couple of stints with the Indian team between 2000-2010. Throughout his tenures, he said India did not have a big enough pool of archers to build a world beating team. According to Rathin Dutta, a former World Archery official, Koreans are introduced to archery at the primary school level. The screening begins there and continues through high school and university. After graduation, top corporate houses, which have their own archery teams, recruit these archers. According to Dutta, in 2012 before the London Games, there were 33 corporate archery teams in Korea. And Korea's elite pool of archers was around 150 strong. At that time, India's not so elite pool including men and women was 16.

Another Korean coach, Moon Beck Woong, who was recruited by India's Mittal Champions' Trust before the London Games had said South Korea had built a replica of the Beijing Games venue for its archers to train more than a year before the competition's start. India had not sealed their Olympic qualification berths till a couple of months before the Games. In the lead up to this Games, the Korean archers again got to practice in range that was a replica of the Tokyo venue.

The other aspect both Lim and Woong stressed on was mental conditioning. Kim Youngsook of the Korean Institute of Sports Science, who is the team's mental conditioning coach since 2012, told World Archery recently: “In other sports, sports psychology is typically only about 20 to 30% of performance. In archery, it’s probably closer to 80%. The real deciding factor of performance in archery is an archer’s mental strength and confidence.”

Koreans archers and coaches are generally very secretive about what they really do to improve mental strength. According to Lim, bungee-jumping and sessions held on the sidelines of packed baseball stadiums were often used to enhance an archer's concentration and overcome fear.

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