Asian Games Champion Oh masterful at raising game

16 April 2018
Yecheon (KOR)
For the second selection in a row, Oh Jin Hyek shot good arrows when it mattered.

The first Korean man to ever win the individual title at the Olympic Games, back in London in 2012, Oh Jin Hyek is a personification of Korea’s archery ability at the international level.

He went on a podium spree following those Games, culminating in him taking gold at the last Asian Games in Incheon in 2014.

Although he’s competed at each World Archery Championships since 2009, he’s never won the event – twice coming second, in 2011 and 2013 – and the last time he took an individual outdoor medal on the world circuit was, unbelievably, back in 2014.

(He didn’t qualify for the Korean team in 2016, but shot internationally in 2015 and 2017.)

“Even though I shot in the world championships last year, my performance wasn’t good and I wasn’t fit,” said Oh. “That’s why I felt the drive to get back on the team again in 2018.”

Towards the tail end of his career, and known to be carrying a long-term shoulder issue (he decided it would be too tough to return from the surgery required), 36-year-old Oh still shoots at the stratospheric level of the best of his peers in Korea. He’s also secured himself a chance to defend his Asian title in 2018.

(And make no mistake, it is a career – Oh makes his money as a professional athlete and shooting internationally is important financially, too.)

“I’ve practised a lot this winter for the selection and I am happy with my performance,” said Oh, who was only on the edge of making the eight-man Korean squad – before raising his level, for the second year in a row, to jump up the ranking list and subsequently make the top four that represent the nation internationally.

“Even if the first days of the selection tournaments didn’t go well, the key point was to keep my concentration and shoot aggressively. I believe it worked,” he added.

Although the medals haven’t come recently, there’s little statistical evidence that it’s come from any drop in performance from the experienced Korean archer, who recently became a father. 

At world events in his career, he’s averaged 9.12 points per arrow – but that number was up to 9.32 in 2017, with a matchplay mark of 9.33. (Career in matchplay, he’s 9.31.)

Since his international debut in 1999, he’s won 75% of his head-to-head matches; in 2017, he took 74%.

So is it, then, that Oh’s international peers have caught up and overtaken him on the field of play? Or is that he’s seen the wrong end of some bad luck? Or is that he’s struggling to deliver arrows under pressure…

…although that certainly hasn’t seemed the case for the second year of Korean trials in a row.

“I shot these selections with a desperate desire to make the team – because I believe that I can do more for Korea,” said Oh.

“I’ve been saying it to myself every moment of this selection competition.”

Thanks to Choi Kyung Hwan for the Korean interview and translation. 

The first stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup will take place in Shanghai, China on 23-29 April.