Meet the team: Korea’s (mostly) new recurve women

26 May 2015
Antalya (TUR)
The Korean women’s team have been Olympic Champions for 28 years in a row. (That’s seven Olympiads.) Their strong shooting, consistent results and fashionable outfits make them envy of the field.

This Korean women’s team might be a little different.

The emotionless veneer, almost machine-like and the calling card of an incredible string of archery goddesses produced by the nation since it began its foray into Olympic archery nearly four decades ago, has worn away.

This Korean women’s team is hilarious.

But still, perhaps, not to their opponents. They displayed crushing form at the first Archery World Cup stage of the year in Shanghai, taking the team title and clean sweep of the individual medal podium.

Kang “The Destroyer” Chae Young won the mixed team title with Kim Woojin, handing the 19-year-old rookie a tidy three gold medals from a single international event.

Ki Bo Bae, reigning Olympic Champion, collected individual bronze at her first event back since 2013.

All eyes are on which archers will be chosen for the squad for next year: the dominance of the women’s team in the Olympics is, of course, absolute – every single Olympic women’s team gold medal has gone to Korea since the event was added to the Games in 1988.

We caught up the girls – Kang, Ki, Choi Misun and Chang Hye Jin – at the start of the second stage of the Archery World Cup in Antalya: A rare event where they need to reclaim to title rather than defend it. (Last year’s team, with completely different personnel, lost gold to China in a shoot-off.)

Read on and meet the team…

Can anybody become a good archer?

Chang Hye Jin: “Yes. I think you can become a good archer if you always, always try your best to achieve your goals. As long as you’ve got a good goal and a good heart, you can be a good archer.”

Do you believe in luck?

Hye Jin: “Luck? I believe there’s luck in every kind of situation you are in, any place. Luck is everywhere.”

Choi Misun: “I do, too. I think luck exists for everybody. This moment is lucky for me.” [Laughs.]

Are you just a good archer or are you good at something else?

Kang Chae Young: “There’s nothing else I’m good at. I’m really bad at other sports, too. I don’t do well on anything else. Not even studying!

“I’m only good at things that require strength.”

What is the best piece of advice you have given, or been given?

Misun: “Advice? I’ve never given anyone advice. But as for the advice I received from other people, the best piece thing I’ve heard was when people said: ‘We trust you’.”

When you’re away at a tournament, what do you take to remind yourself of home?

Ki Bo Bae: I don’t have anything like that, but I just look at my boyfriend’s picture when I miss him.”

“Away from home? Nothing in particular, really. What else do I have to take along with me other than my personality?” [Laughs, a lot.]

Who is your hero?

Hye Jin: “Hero? What kind of hero? Like, my own hero? God. God is my hero.”

What do you say to yourself as you step onto the line?

Bo Bae: “I usually say a little set of positive words. I like to put a kind of spell on myself, a kind of ‘I trust myself’-type spell.”

“The most important thing is trusting my own skill and ability, so I do everything to protect that and make sure that happens.”

How can people make archery training fun?

Chae Young: “Taking breaks when you’re exhausted and training when you want to. I think training can be enjoyable if you do it in a good frame of mind or thinking and looking back on times when you did really well.”

“Dreaming about yourself standing on the top of the podium would be the best way to make training an enjoyable experience, right? You should only train when you want to, but when you do train, give 100 percent.”

What’s your greatest personal strength? 

Bo Bae. “As for physical greatest strength, the flexibility I have in my shoulders and body. Personality-wise, bright and cheerful personality and always, always a positive mindset.”

Is perfectionism a positive attitude or a negative one?

Hye Jin: “Good question. It depends on your character and personality, but in my opinion, excessive perfectionism is a negative thing.”

“It’s good in some areas, but trying too hard to be perfect makes it a negative in the end. Actually, I’d say that aiming for perfection in the beginning is positive, but it becomes negative when you strive to be perfect too much.”

Is it easier to shoot against a teammate in a World Cup final?

Chae Young: “It’s not so bad! Although I would say this: that the individual match is much harder. The team match doesn’t make me that nervous, but the individual match is a lot more stressful because I’m out there on my own.”

How do you relax during a tournament?

Hye Jin: “I try and maintain a positive mindset and just concentrate on what needs to be done, and nothing else. You have to stay positive at all times. Always say to yourself: ‘I can do this!’”

What is your earliest memory?

Chae Young: “I remember taking a trip to the riverside with my dad and my older brother. We used to go there a lot. Playing in the waterpark!”

What is your favourite sport apart from archery, and why?

Misun: “Don’t know, really. I like soccer because it’s really fun to watch.”

What do you like to spend money on?

Bo Bae: “Oh dear. Making myself pretty? Usually clothes or make-up, or my nails. When I want to give myself a mood lift, I like getting my hair done. I tend to spend most of my money on making myself up.” [Laughs.]

What do you like to watch on TV?

Misun: “Entertainment programmes, Superman Is Back! And… this show that’s all about babies.” [Laughs.] “It’s a parenting show about dads raising their kids.”

“I don’t watch TV much these days, though. No time!”

How many medals are you going to take home from Antalya?

Chae Young: “I don’t have high expectations, but I do want to put in a high score. I will just try my best and do whatever it takes.”