Face of an Olympic Champion: Chang Hye Jin

17 August 2016
Rio de Janeiro (BRA)
Team captain Chang became the eighth women’s Olympic Champion from Korea in the last nine Games at Rio 2016.

The first of two profiles on the new Olympic Champions, Chang Hye Jin and Ku Bonchan, crowned at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

NAME: CHANG HYE JIN

NOC: Korea 

Born: 13 May 1987, Daegu, South Korea

Olympic caps: 1 (Rio 2016)

THE MEDALS

Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Other ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Runner-up at the Asian Games (Incheon 2014)
  • Archery World Cup stage winner (Antalya 2014)
  • Asian Champion (Bangkok 2015)
  • 15+ international Team/mixed team medals

OLYMPIC JOURNEY

Chang Hye Jin became the eighth Korean athlete to win an Olympic gold in the women’s individual competition at the Games on 11 August in the Sambodromo, the iconic samba stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Born and raised in Daegu, a city in the southeast of South Korea, Hye Jin started archery when she was only 11 years old.

Back then, though, her interests in the sport were more orientated to the enjoyment with her school friends than anything else. Being a professional athlete was something that, Hye Jin said, was out of her mind. The reason: her size.

“When I started archery I didn’t even know what the sport was. I wasn’t even good enough because I was too short and not strong,” said Hye Jin. “I’m still short but now I’m stronger.”

When she began her university studies in Seoul, her home nation’s capital, Hye Jin started to go deeper into the sport and attend competitions at a medium level. Then, things changed.

It was in her fourth year of university when she realised that she wanted to be part of the Korean national team.

“I gave and dedicated all my life to archery. There was not much time to go out, enjoy or relax. It was all about training to become a good archer,” she said.

The oldest of four sisters and captain of the Korean women’s team in Rio quickly built up her confidence. She was soon part of the Korean squad that competed in Belgrade, Serbia, at the Summer Universiade in 2009 – where Hye Jin won her first international gold medal in the women’s team event.

During 2010 and 2011, Hye Jin lived through disappointments as an athlete. She failed to make the national team.

“Out of eight pre-selected women for the team, I was ninth. It was hard for me. That’s when I decided I wanted to be at the highest level, not out of it,” she said.

Hye Jin was back in a Korean shirt at the start of 2012, competing at both the Shanghai and Antalya Archery World Cup stages. She failed, though, to make the most important team of the year: the one that would compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“I was fourth, I was the alternate. I didn’t do well enough to be on that team – that was hard,” recalled Hye Jin.

“People that know me, know that I have had difficult times through my entire career; 2012 was one of those tough years. But then, that’s how they also know all the effort that I had put in to the past four years to be here in Rio celebrating that I’m an Olympic Champion.”

At Rio 2016, Hye Jin beat Lusi Tatafu and Lidiia Sichenikova to start her Olympic journey, then shot against Kang Un Ju, from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in the third round. That match, she said, was the hardest of her competition in Rio.

“It gathered a lot of attention in our country. I had a lot of pressure and I knew that I needed to win it. So I did. Then, it was also hard to shoot against one of my best friends and favourite teammate Ki Bo Bae.”

Defending Olympic Champion Ki came in the semis, after a quarterfinal win over Naomi Folkard.

Hye Jin prevented her teammate from becoming the first archer to defend an Olympic title when she relegated her to the bronze medal match, which Ki won. Chang, meanwhile, went on to take an Olympic crown herself, with a 6-2 win over Lisa Unruh.

Celebrating in front of the loud Sambodromo crown, Chang Hye Jin’s second individual world win was the biggest of all.

“This is the proof of many years of effort. Archery means many things for me, but especially, that’s the reason why I built up my confidence and strength – to be here in Rio celebrating my biggest achievement ever, an Olympic gold medal,” she said.

“I want to keep doing archery, keep training and prepare for the national team selection tournament at the end of the year because I want to stay on the team again.”

“It’s not over yet for me.”

The archery competition Rio 2016 Olympic Games ran 5-12 August in the Sambodromo.