Korean team to include 6 Olympic gold medallists in 2017
London 2012 Olympic Champion Oh Jin Hyek will make his return to the world stage after missing out in 2016, all three women’s team members from Rio 2016 retained their places on the squad, and one Korean recurve archer will make his international debut in Shanghai after the conclusion of trials for the Korean national archery team.
“I was disappointed I didn’t go to Rio. My body was very tired but my head was not. I started from the beginning with my training and I feel like I’ve grown,” said Oh. “I am so pleased I made the team for this year. I’m not sure how I’ll perform at international events, but I’m going to do my best to prepare for them.”
The first Korean recurve man to take individual gold at the Olympics was active on the indoor circuit with the Hyundai Steel pro team during his hiatus from the national squad.
“When I didn’t qualify I thought my performance was getting worse so I wanted a break. But I am an archer. I wanted to get back to archery, and quickly. This last winter I have trained better than ever – and focused on physical strength just for the selection shoot. During the trials, I started to think that I could be good again,” he added.
After three extended rounds of selection starting in early March, Korea’s national team selection process for the 2017 season has finally drawn to a close. Olympic Champion Ku Bonchan missed the cut altogether, bowing out as the shortlist was cut to eight, before the remaining athletes (who train together as the national squad) were ranked over two separate four-day sessions, held several weeks apart.
The last session, at the Kim Soo-Nyung (yes, her) archery field in Yecheon, finished on Thursday 27 April 2017.
The top four finishers in each category were selected as the team for the Hyundai Archery World Cup stages, while three-strong teams for the World Archery Championship in Mexico City at the end of the year won’t be named until later on in the season. (Apparently, these will be finalised after evaluating the results of the archers at the international events early in the season.)
Ki Bo Bae, who won individual Olympic gold in London and bronze in Rio, had just enough to scrape into fourth place in the women’s team, leaving the door open to defending the World Archery Champion title she won in Copenhagen in 2015. (She had the same total points as Lee Eun Gyeong, but was selected on arrow average).
Choi Misun and individual Olympic Champion Chang Hye Jin – who won team gold with Ki in Rio – also qualified.
Only 70-metre world record holder Kim Woojin, the reigning (and two-time) World Archery Champion, returns from the men’s gold-medal winning team at last summer’s Olympics. As an interesting aside: all four members of the men’s team – Kim, Oh, Im Dong Hyun and Kim Jongho – have held or currently hold a world record at 70 metres. (Either the full 72-arrow round or 36 arrows as part of the 1440 Round.)
Rio Olympian Lee Seungyun, who recently became a father, will sit out of top tier competitions this year.
He, along with the other athletes on the squad who didn’t make the primary team – Lee Woo Seok, Jin Jae Wang, Jung Tae Young, Lee Eun Gyeong, Hong Sunam, Park Mi Kyung and Choi Minsun – receive the consolation prize of representing Korea at the Asian Championships in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the end of November.
Debutant Kim Jongho (not to be confused with the compound archer of the same name) will compete in his first senior international competition in Shanghai in May.
The four recurve women on the Korean team for 2017 in trials final ranking order.
1) Choi Misun: Absolutely dominated the last stage of the trials, winning every round. It seems incredible now that at this time in 2015, Choi was completely unknown on the international archery scene. Since then, she has lived up her world number one ranking – taking triple-gold at two stages of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in 2016 – apart from, of course, the match against Alejandra Valencia that saw her duck out early in Rio.
Average arrow: 9.38; match wins: 37/86%; ranking round best: 686
2) Kang Chae Young: After placing an agonising fourth in the Olympic trials last year, Kang has again found her 2015 form where she won multiple Hyundai Archery World Cup stage medals and a World Archery Championships team bronze. Also the reigning world student champion. Finishing second in this field is a statement of intent.
Average arrow: 9.32; match wins: 15/79%; ranking round best: 679
3) Chang Hye Jin: Now a massive star in her home country, the reigning Olympic Champion has maintained the form to back up her status. She won several trial rounds and gave credence to the suggestion, which she put forward shortly after Rio, that she just might be the first archer ever to defend an individual Olympic title in Tokyo. There's a long way to go before that, but at 29, “Chang Kong” has found career-best form.
Average arrow: 9.32; match wins: 43/70%; ranking round best: 677
4) Ki Bo Bae: Was up against it in the final trials, finishing seventh after a disastrous third round nearly sank the boat. As so often before, she had enough fight to make the top tier – just. Impossible, as always, to write off.
Average arrow: 9.31; match wins: 70/81%; ranking round best: 686 (world record)
The four recurve men on the Korean team for 2017 in trials final ranking order.
1) Kim Woojin: The reigning World Archery Champion demolished the first week of selection, just like the last two seasons, and had plenty in reserve over the last two sessions. Could a third world title be on the cards?
Average arrow: 9.5; match wins: 63/80%; ranking round best: 700 (world record)
2) Oh Jin Hyek: Fighting with Kim Woojin for top placing at the trials, he has been emphatic and consistent since finding form early in the selection process. The comeback of the year.
Average arrow: 9.03; match wins: 83/76%; ranking round best: 691
3) Im Dong Hyun: A remarkable archer who has won pretty much everything short of an individual Olympic medal, 2017 saw his 15th consecutive selection for the national squad – a quietly extraordinary achievement. Off the front lines for a couple of years, it's great to see him back in a prime spot.
Average arrow: 9.48; match wins: 96/79%; ranking round best: 699
4) Kim Jongho: 21 years old and a member of the Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps, he used to train in the national junior team until joining the army. Kim held the world senior 36-arrow 70-metre record for a while in 2013/14 with 350 – but has not previously competed internationally.
Korea’s compound team for 2017 was selected at the same time. More to follow.