Best Olympic Archers of All-Time: #7 Park Kyung-Mo
Some pictures courtesy Yoshi Komatsu.
Each week in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, we’ll be revealing another athlete on our list of the top 15 Olympic archers of all time. This week, it’s…
#7: PARK KYUNG-MO
Born: 15 August 1975, Okcheon, Jeollabuk, South Korea
Olympic caps: 2 (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008)
|Athens 2004 Olympic Games|
|Beijing 2008 Olympic Games|
|Beijing 2008 Olympic Games|
“If you’re an athlete, taking part in the Olympics is everyone’s dream come true. If I think back to the times I participated, my heart still beats.” – Park Kyung-Mo
Park Kyung-Mo’s incredible focus and timing, hidden behind trademark sunglasses, struck terror into opponents over an astonishing 15-year international career.
He made his first national team age 18, and won a major straight out of the gate – individual gold at the 1993 World Archery Championships. The following year, Park won individual and team gold at the Asian Games in Hiroshima.
But after this auspicious start, Park disappeared from front-line national duties, not making the national side for another six years. He never gave up, though.
“Without goals, passion, and effort, I wouldn’t have been ‘me’ today,” he said. “Running for the national team and representing Korea at the Olympics were a dream of mine, but my main goal became to achieve a Grand Slam of major championships.”
Once he returned, he returned in style. Powerhouse Korean men’s teams featuring Park won gold at the 2001, 2003 and 2005 World Archery Championships, as well as the Asian Championships in the same years.
In 2004, he finally made his Olympic debut. In the individual competition, despite breaking an Olympic record in his third round match against Anton Prilepov, Park lost in the quarterfinals to eventual bronze medallist Tim Cuddihy. But the men’s team of Park, Im Dong Hyun and Jang Yong-Ho were in imperious form, and he shot the last arrow – a 10 – to beat Chinese Taipei 251-245.
It was Park’s first Olympic medal - and it was gold.
Briefly pausing to win the first ever Archery World Cup Final in 2006 and take another Asian Games team title, Park was back in action at Beijing 2008 – the year the Korea Archery Association built a full-size replica of the Beijing archery field for their squad to practice on.
Park knew that because of his age, it was likely to be his last shot at an Olympic medal.
The Korean men powered their way into the final of the team event, where they faced an incredible battle with the Italians. Tied at 199 apiece, the Koreans shot two nines and a 10 to set a new world record of 227 points for the 24-arrow match. And it was Park Kyung-Mo who shot the final arrow – a nine – to take the gold.
The individual title now beckoned.
In the quarterfinals, he trailed 2007 Pan Am Games silver medallist Juan Carlos Stevens by two points on the last arrow, but coolly shot a 10 to his opponents’ eight to force a shoot-off. Park advanced with another perfect 10.
“When I finished [that] match, I thought, ‘my lucky stars are with me’,” he said. He then beat Juan Rene Serrano 115-112 to make the final.
It was time to face destiny.
“Thinking back on it, my heart still pounds. As I walked into the stadium, I was determined to shoot all 12 arrows without regrets. I just thought the usual: ‘Let’s shoot each and every arrow with everything I’ve got, and accept the outcome, whatever happens,” Park recalled.
Leading by two, it looked like Park was going to take individual gold against Viktor Ruban of the Ukraine, when suddenly, on his penultimate arrow, he shot an eight to Ruban’s 10, and the scores were tied.
Ruban’s final arrow was a 10, where a tense Park could only manage a nine. It was ‘just’ a silver.
“I trained for the Olympics harder than anyone else. I still don’t have regrets, though, as I tried my best,” he said.
Two weeks after the Olympics, both Parks announced they were a couple. They married in December 2008.
Kyung-Mo retired after Beijing. He now coaches Gongju City Hall, one of Korea’s pro teams, and is keen to produce a gold medallist.
“I want to fulfill my ‘Grand Slam’ dream through the players I’m teaching, as I couldn’t achieve it myself during my title as an archer,” he said.
“There is still a bit of passion left in me. I’m using that passion to become a competent leader, and not an archer drawing the bow. The passion I had as an archer revives all over again sometimes when I’m coaching, so I still like to shoot with fellow archers from time to time. Maybe it’s because the bows have been with me for 25 years, it seems as if my body still remembers them.”
He has three daughters with Park Sung-Hyun, and is very used to fielding questions about their possible future in the sport.
“I’ve never taught them, but I can tell the archery genes were passed on, seeing how my kids imitate the posture very well! I want to enjoy archery with them. My wife jokingly mentions how she wants to teach them archery and configure a female team to participate for competitions,” Park said.
Park Kyung-Mo was one of the most successful Korean archers of his era, and will be remembered as one of the toughest, most dedicated competitors of all time.
His final words: “I didn’t sacrifice anything. Archery is a part of my life of which made me who I am today. There’s a lot of things I gained through archery, and nothing that I lost.”