Can the South Korean women's archery team win their ninth consecutive gold medal at Tokyo Olympics?
With eight gold medals against their name, saying that the South Korean women have been dominant in the Olympics is a gross understatement.
Archery has been one of the oldest sports to have been competed in at the Olympics. The bow and arrow sport made its debut in the modern Games during the 1900 Paris Olympics, before being scrapped after the 1920 Antwerp Games due to the lack of universal rules.
It was also one of the first sports to allow the participation of women in the Olympics when it did so in the 1904 St. Louis Games.
After being scraped in 1920, archery made a return to the quadrennial event, almost 52 years later during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Ever since the sports' return to the Games, one country which has absolutely ruled the sport at the Olympics is South Korea, with a total of 39 Olympic medals, including a whopping 23 gold!
The domination has been more so evident in the women's team event wherein the South Korean women have swept the yellow metal in all the editions of the Games ever since the event was introduced in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
The Domination of South Korean Women's Team
1988 Seoul, 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, 2016 Rio de Janeiro – Eight editions of Olympics since the team event has introduced and eight consecutive gold medals.
Saying the South Korean women have been dominant is a gross understatement.
Now as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics near, the women from South Korea will be eyeing their ninth consecutive gold in the women's team recurve event. While we do not know whether they would be able to create history by clinching yet another gold, we surely know what makes them stand out. Read on to find out.
History of archery in South Korea
The Koreans have a long history with archery. They have been recorded using the reflex bow since the 5th century BC. Legends say that one of the ancient kings in Korea, Go Jumong, once shot five flies down with a single arrow!
The bows used by Koreans, traditionally, were very large and made from wood and the horns of water buffalos. These reflex bows were though completely different from the now used recurve bows in the Olympics. The reflex bows, when unstrung, completely curves into a 'C' shape, while a recurve bow curves only at its ends.
The Chinese used to refer to the Koreans as 'Dongyi-jok', which loosely translates into 'Eastern people with large bows', due to their prowess in archery.
Identifying talents at a young age
Despite its rich history in archery, South Korea was not really dominant in the sport at the world stage during the early days, mainly because their version of the sport was a lot different than what the world was practising. It was only when a female student, Kim Jin-ho, won the country's first-ever World Championship medal in the sport in the 1970s that the sport gained popularity in the country.
It was a watershed moment in South Korean archery history as the sport exploded like a volcano in the country, with more and more people, including children wanting to be involved in the sport. This led to the development of world-class archery infrastructure in the country, and it even being included as a part of the school curriculum for children.
As per BBC, Koreans are introduced to archery while they are still in primary school, and the talented students are put through two hours of practice session every day in school. The competition in the sport is such that the less talented start withdrawing from the sport once they reach middle school, high school or university level before the best in the country are handed out secured jobs by well-known firms in the country.
Crazy training sessions
Besides, the South Korean archers are put through some very stern training routines to ensure that their concentration remains at its peak even during high-pressure situations.
The archers are made to undergo adventurous activities like bungee jumping, platform diving and others to help them keep calm during the pressure situations in any tournament they are competing in.
They are also made to use visualization techniques, like in many other sports, wherein they visualize shooting an unloaded bow. The archers score themselves during the visualization process depending upon how they feel before moving to shoot with actual arrows.
The South Koreans pride themselves a lot on their archery prowess. Anything less than a gold is a disappointment for them.
To prepare their archers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a time when China was rapidly making waves in the sport, the South Koreans went as far as making a replica of the stadium their archers would be competing in. They even brought in loudspeakers and played the noise of an energetic crowd to get their archers Olympic ready.
If you thought this was crazy, wait, there is more!
Ahead of the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games, the South Korean archers trained in a baseball stadium – a baseball stadium full of people!
All this is quite plausible to do, but there are some absurd aspects as well on how the South Koreans train.
The 1992 Barcelona Olympics double gold medallist, Cho-Young Jeong, has gone on to claim that she used to take long walks in a cemetery alone in the night to keep herself calm for tournaments, according to a video in the Olympics channel.
Besides, the legend of the 1996 Atlanta Games double gold medallist Kim Kyung Wook being asked by her trainer to pick up a live snake and bite it is also widely popular.
Can South Korean Women team win their ninth consecutive gold at the Tokyo Olympics?
The South Korean women's recurve archery team is currently ranked third in the world, behind Italy and Mexico. But, this is mainly because they have not competed in international tournaments for a long time.
They have got a very strong team in Kang Chae-young, Jang Min-hee and An San. While they might be a bit rusty to start off in Tokyo, one can never rule out the South Korean women team from winning their ninth consecutive gold medal in a little over fifteen days.