South Korea’s Golden Archers – The New York Times

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For South Korean archers, winning Olympic gold medals almost feels like a given – they’ve claimed 23 of the 34 golds awarded in the sport since 1984.

Getting into Games that is difficult.

Ask Chang Hye-jin, who won two gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, or Ku Bon-chan, who did the same on the men’s side. No champion has made the cut this year.

Or ask 17-year-old Kim Je-deok, who this spring successfully navigated the rim of the South Korea national team selection tournament, which brought together the country’s top 200 archers and competed for six tickets for three men and three women to the world’s biggest sporting event. , regardless of standings or past performance.

“Once in a lifetime luck came to me,” said Kim, who recently beat a shoulder injury that would have kept him out of the Olympics had it not been postponed for a year.

South Korean archers fired thousands of arrows in each of the grueling rounds of competition spanning eight anxious months. For those who have succeeded, the hard part may now be over.

The South Korean archery team has won gold at every Summer Olympics since 1984. Since the team event began in Seoul in 1988, the women’s team has specifically won the gold medal eight times in a row. In 2016, the men’s and women’s teams swept gold medals in team and individual events at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The team is renowned in the archery world for the depth and detail of their preparations. National coaches use wind machines and pump artificial noise (crowd noises, camera curtains) through speakers to simulate the adverse environmental conditions athletes may encounter in competition.

Prior to the Rio Games in 2016, archers trained at a live baseball game, which was an unorthodox way of exposing them to the pressure cooker atmosphere. This spring, the training sessions at the national training center in Jincheon took place in an arena modeled after the arena they will see in Tokyo. Staff placed video screens, spectator stands and banners where they could be positioned at the Olympics. Simulated speaker announcements in English and Japanese set the mood even more.

“Our goal is zero defect training,” said Jang Young-sool, vice president of the Korean Archery Association.

South Korean archers start at a young age, and those who go through rigorous development careers are supported by one of dozens of teams affiliated with national companies and universities. Still in high school, Kim first tried archery in third grade. In the fifth grade, she dreamed of competing on the international stage.

“A talent like Je-deok comes once in a hundred years,” Yun Ok-hee, who won individual gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing, told Arirang News this year about Kim Je-deok.

Four of South Korea’s six archers will make their Olympic debuts, including world No. 1 woman Kang Chae-young, who failed to qualify for the Rio Games in 2016 after dropping one point on the final day of qualifying. .

Kim faced a similarly tense situation on the final day of this year’s competitions and needed to hit three 10’s with her last three arrows to get into the top three positions. He pulled himself together, visualized a practice session where he hit three 10’s, and then did just that, scoring 2,952 in the competition. and earned a place in the team with the last arrow.

He said he felt stressed and nervous throughout the entire trial. But now the feeling was different. “I’m more comfortable now,” said Kim, “because I believe in myself.”

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