Best Olympic Archers of All-Time: Round-up and Honourable Mentions

14 July 2016
A recap, and some observations, on World Archery’s list of the best Olympic archery athletes in history, from Paris 1900 to London 2012.

Each week in the lead-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, we’ve revealed another athlete on our list of the top 15 Olympic archers of all time – with, finally, the male and female archers of the century taking the top two spots.

In case you missed it, here’s the list in full:

The list was compiled by a panel using criteria that included total medals, records set, performances at Olympic Games, performances on home soil, unusual achievements – and the impact of an archer’s results.

There wasn’t room on the list for everyone who probably deserved to be there. So here’s some that just missed out (in no particular order)…

5 Honourable mentions

1. TOMI POIKOLAINEN

Finnish archer Poikolainen won Olympic individual gold in Moscow in 1980 when he was just 18 years old. The Moscow Olympics were boycotted by the USA and several other nations, in an era where the States was the dominant force in international archery.

But Poikolainen would certainly have been competitive even if they had been present – and he sustained his talent across a generation. 

Returning to Olympic action in 1984, he placed fifth, and then made the semifinal in Seoul in 1988, placing 11th. In 1992, he was beaten by 1988 champion Jay Barrs in the first round but took a silver medal with the Finnish men’s team, just two points behind champions Spain. He also made the third round at Atlanta in 1996, completing five consecutive Olympic appearances. 

While he never won the world title, he took two team silvers and a individual bronze, along with the European individual championship in 1986 and seven other European medals across an astonishing 26-year competitive career – and even recently returned to shooting, apparently breaking a national record in 2014.

2. VIC WUNDERLE 

Although he never took a gold medal, Victor Steven "Vic" Wunderle had an Olympic career remarkable for its consistency.

He took individual silver at his first Olympics in 2000, beaten by home champion Simon Fairweather. That year, he also took a bronze medal with the USA team, by beating Russia in a shootoff. 

In 2004, he won three matches in a row before being stopped by eventual champion Marco Galiazzo in the quarterfinals. He also helped the men’s team to a fourth place finish. 

In 2008, he dispatched then World Archery Champion Im Dong Hyun in the third round in the biggest upset of the tournament, but was again stopped in the quarterfinals, this time by Juan Rene Serrano. 

In his career, he took a host of Pan-American Games medals, and a team bronze at the World Championships in 1999 – and at the age of 40, Wunderle is still trying for the US Olympic team, over 20 years after he became junior World Archery Champion in 1994. 

Has any other archer managed three consecutive individual top eight finishes at Olympic Games?  We don’t think so.

3. JUSTIN HUISH 

Huish won individual and team gold for the USA on home soil in Atlanta 1996.  

Sporting earrings, a ponytail and wraparound shades under his reversed baseball cap, he looked more like a skateboarder than an archer – which, funnily enough, is exactly what he did before he picked up a bow, aged 14. 

Despite only making the national team in 1994, and with no previous international titles, Huish placed ninth in the ranking round and powered through the field at Stone Mountain in Atlanta, surfing a wave of confidence which grew with every match. With the home crowd behind him, he dispatched six opponents in a row to take gold, surviving a double-shoot-off with Michele Frangilli in the quarterfinals. 

With fellow Olympic greats Butch Johnson (five Games, team gold and silver) and Rod White (two Games, team gold and bronze), the USA men took their only team title to date, beating Korea by just two points in a classic final. 

Huish became one of the darlings of the Atlanta games, but his career – and life – took a sharp turn a few years later, and in 2000 he was dropped from the Olympic team. 

He was the first, and so far only male archer ever to do the ‘double’ of individual and team gold at the same Games.

4. JANG YONG-HO 

With seven entries, Korea has by far the largest number of archers in our all-time list. There are several other Koreans with a good claim to be there; and one stands out: Jang Jong Ho. He was on the Korean Olympic men’s teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004, which won silver, gold and gold, respectively.

His individual Olympic performances were less stellar, one quarterfinals place and two 11th places. But he also won team World Archery Championship gold, back in 1997, and held the 90-metre world record for many years, too – after setting it at the World Archery Championships in 2003.

He is also notable for having a much longer career than most top Korean archers, first making the national team in 1991, and still competing today. In 2013, he reappeared at the Berlin Open and took gold, indoors, aged 38.

5. Lottie Dod 

There are many names from the early Olympic games from 1900-1920 that have a claim to all-time greatness. However, the varied nature of the rounds and competitions – some were little more than national championships – mean that comparing this with the post-1972 Olympic era is difficult.

Frenchman Julien Brule took individual gold and silver, two team silvers, and a team bronze home from Antwerp in 1920, but there were just 30 participants from three countries shooting. Only Hubert van Innis – number 4 on our list – stands out both for his medal haul and the sheer longevity of his career.

A special mention however, should go to Lottie Dod, of Great Britain, who won a silver medal at the London Games of 1908, shooting a double national round. She was leading after the first day, but was eventually beaten by Queenie Newall in a final stopped several times because of high-winds and rain.

Her brother Willy Dod won men’s individual gold at the same Games. 

What makes her remarkable, though, is that her career as an Olympic archer was just one of her talents, the biggest of which was tennis. She had already won the Wimbledon singles title a total of five times – in 1887 aged just 15, 1888, 1891, 1892 and 1893. 

That wasn’t all – she also played field hockey for England twice, won the British ladies amateur golf championship, competed in curling, and climbed at least two 4,000 metre mountains. She was eventually named as the most versatile female athlete of all time by the Guinness Book Of Records.

It would be 96 years before Great Britain would take another recurve women’s individual Olympic archery medal with Alison Williamson’s bronze in Athens in 2004.

Who’s next for the list?

One major Olympic achievement remains unclaimed across all eras – defending an individual Olympic title. Only Darrell Pace has won Olympic gold twice, in 1976 and 1984, and he was not able to defend the first of those.

Park Sung-Hyun came within a couple of arrows of defending her title in the final in 2008, but was beaten by Zhang Juan Juan

In Rio, Ki Bo Bae will return to try and defend her Olympic title from 2012. If she managed to do that and take team gold, too – it would shoot her straight to the top of the all-time list. 

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World Archery would like to thank Choi Kyung Hwan, Yoshi Komatsu, Sergio Font, Vittorio Frangilli, Francesco Marcatto, Yuko Oda, Jessica Cho and everybody else who contributed their time and assistance in producing this series.

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