Ki Bo Bae only 60% into international career?
Over her eight-year international career, Ki Bo Bae has four Olympic medals (three gold), an individual World Archery Championship and two Hyundai Archery World Cup crowns to her name. She has the world record for the 72-arrow 70-metre ranking round, world records with the Korean recurve women’s team – and a reputation as a dominant matchplay athlete.
Ki gave an interview to Sisa Press at the end of 2016, which was recently translated by our friends at DutchTarget, that gives an incredible insight into the mentality, and future plans, of one of the world’s most successful archers of the last decade.
“Being a member of the national team [of Korea] is like asking for the moon,” Ki said, to open the interview. “We are overflowing with great archers and the number of selected athletes are limited. That’s why the national athletes changes so frequently. So I cannot afford to not be vigilant.”
The 28-year-old was speaking from experience. Following her win at London 2012, Ki had a tumultuous couple of seasons, culminating in her being off the Korean team in 2014.
“When I did my winter training, it didn’t feel good. I thought ‘this year will be rough’. Above all, I wasn’t convinced about myself. I must have conviction when I shoot, but my heart was shaking even before I shot," she explained.
“In addition, the life of a training athlete was so boring. I wanted to be free out of the locked-down world.”
Instead of competing, Ki watched the Asian Games in 2014 from the commentary booth, lending an expert voice to the competition for Korean national television: “It served as an opportunity to firm up the motivation that was missing for a while.”
“After that, I got a second wind. I even thought that if I cannot participate in international competition, I would smash all the domestic competitions instead,” Ki said.
“I decided to show everybody that I wasn’t dead yet.”
Back on the team in 2015 – when she won the worlds – and 2016, she travelled to Rio favourited to achieve something no-one else had: win a second consecutive Olympic gold medal in archery.
It all went well until the semifinals, when Ki met teammate Chang Hye Jin – and lost:
“It was really sad. If I’d failed in the round of 16 or earlier, I would have accepted that my skills weren’t up to the competition, but I was upset that I didn’t advance to the final.”
Despite the disappointment, Ki took bronze and then was back in the stands supporting Chang, as she took gold, minutes later. She said the Korean women celebrated in the victor’s room without a “wash or change [of] clothes”, checking articles and see if they’d come out “nicely or ugly in photos” until the next morning.
Over her eight-year (and counting) international career, Ki Bo Bae has put herself close to – although perhaps not quite in to – the conversation of the best Korean woman to grace the sport, with legends like Kim Soo-Nyung and Park Sung-Hyun.
At the same time, she’s studied as a teacher and pursues a PhD, and suggested that at some point she is interested in both becoming an IOC committee member and working with Paralympic athletes.
But, although she’s prepared for that future, it might not arrive just yet.
Going for one more Games, say Tokyo in 2020, which she has previously suggested she’s interested in, would cement the legacy of Ki Bo Bae – and she knows it.
When asked the percentage at which her archery life has, after so many international accolades, reached, she replied: “I think up to 60.”
(Which doesn’t sound like a lot.)
“Obviously I passed 50. I’ve received valuable gifts and I’ve experienced the Olympics twice. The last 40, I will enjoy the competition with my juniors. When I reach around 100, I may live my life as a leader, not an archer,” Ki said.
A senior member of any likely Korean team in upcoming seasons, if she’s selected for it, will – and should – Ki Bo Bae give the Olympics one more go?
Thanks to DutchTarget for the translation of the original article.