Expectation a burden on Korean team says Oh Jin Hyek
In 2012, Oh Jin Hyek made history.
As dominant as Korea has been on the international archery scene since Seo Hyang-soon won women’s gold in Los Angeles in 1984, winning eight out of nine individual titles in the division and all eight team golds at the Games since, Oh was the first Korean man to become Olympic Champion.
It was something of a disappointment, then, when he didn’t qualify for Rio.
“I watched every match from home. Of course, it would have been nice if I was able to go, too,” he said. “The younger archers did so well that I was proud of them. They showed how strong Korea is, and for that I am grateful.”
Ku Bonchan won individual gold in Rio, defending Korea’s newly-found grasp on the men’s Olympic title, but then he, in turn, failed to make the Korean team in 2017. Oh made his return.
After a rocky start early in the selection procedure, he found a new gear and finished second only to Kim Woojin, the reigning World Archery Champion and 70-metre ranking round world record holder.
“Woojin has been doing well in competitions and, as for Im Dong Hyun, it’s been a while since he’s been to a World Cup but he’s had great results at national competitions,” said Oh.
The Olympic team for Rio was young and Woojin was the senior member and elected captain.
In the 2017 line-up, stacked with three of the very best of the last decade in Oh, Im and Kim, plus rookie international archer Kim Jongho (who actually held a world record himself in 2015), it’s Olympic Champion Oh who leads.
“I think there is a burden on our athletes because we did so well last year,” said Oh. Korea won all four medals at the Games for the first time in history.
“Dealing with that heavy expectation is something I’m trying to help the team with. It will be really hard on them if they enter a competition with this weight on their minds. So I say things like: ‘shoot without burden’.”
“It’s my job to support them so that they can really show their strength, so I do my best to do that.”
This star-studded line up, owner of a combined six Olympic and 19 World Archery Championship medals, is coached by one of the original Korean men to beat; a popped-collar-wearing and sunglass-toting triple Olympic medallist (shown in the picture below on the left in Sydney).
“When I started archery, coach Oh Kyo-Moon was already an archer who had been successful. There is so much to learn from him but I am not sure if I have time to learn it all,” said Oh.
“He has so much experience and knowledge that he has helped us as athletes a lot whether in practice, competition, shooting in the wind, or just life in general. He knew what we needed help with. He knew exactly what we needed and we didn’t have to ask for it. He helped us on his own.”
The World Archery Championships in Mexico City take place at the end of the 2017 season, after the Hyundai Archery World Cup reaches its finale in Rome.
It’s a title that Oh Jin Hyek has not yet won.
In 2009, he was fourth at the worlds. He came second in 2011, in Turin, to Kim and runner-up again in 2013, in Belek, to Lee Seungyun, who was the third member of the team in Rio. At the most recent edition in Copenhagen, he made a shock exit in the first round of matchplay.
It’s a title that Oh Jin Hyek really wants.
At the moment, he doesn’t know whether he’ll shoot in Mexico. From the four archers on the Hyundai Archery World Cup tour, the three-man team for the World Archery Championships will be selected on results.
The presumed squad comprises the three veterans – Oh, Im and Kim – but past selection procedures, as Oh well knows, have proved ruthless. There’s no sure spot in the Korean team and coaches will simply pick the three athletes that give them the best chance to win.
It’s not the only thing the 2012 Olympic Champion has on his mind, though.
He let slip that, like Im Dong Hyun and Lee Seungyun in recent months, he’s about to become a father.
It’s a big year for Oh Jin Hyek.
Korean translation: Vanessa Lee, Choi Kyunghwan.
The first stage of the 2017 Hyundai Archery World Cup runs 16 to 21 May in Shanghai, China.