World #1 Woojin on loss, learning and a 10-year international career
At just 25 years old, Korean world number one Kim Woojin has a list of achievements longer than most athletes will achieve in a lifetime.
Not only has he been World Archery Champion twice (2011 and 2015), he’s the one and only recurve archer to score at least 700 out of a possible 720 points on the 70-metre 72-arrow ranking round, when he hit the mark during qualification at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
But despite the world and Olympic record, and having the number one seeding at his Games debut in Brazil, Kim didn’t make it past the second round.
Indonesia’s Riau Ega Agatha orchestrated the upset of the tournament, defeating the presumptive event favourite in four sets.
Individually, Woojin was disappointed, although he was part of the recurve men’s team that did win gold and help Korea take its first four-medal clean sweep of the Olympic Games.
“When I think about that time, I have only positive memories,” said Woojin, reminiscing two years on.
“When I think about it I feel that the expectation upon me could have been a weight on my mind, but when you arrive at any competition nobody can truly predict the outcome.”
The loss was a pivotal one, and Kim took it as an opportunity to improve.
He became more thoughtful, more analytical, studying each of his tournament performances to find areas to tweak to gain whatever more tiny advantage he could.
“I think I’m changing all the time. Whenever I come out to world cups, the feeling is always a bit different,” he said.
Those improvements are rarely physical.
In fact, Woojin considers the mental aspect of archery – or confidence, as he and many of the Asian international athletes put it – is 80% of what is necessary to have success in the sport:
“Technique, although important, can never be perfect.”
“[Being successful requires] a combination of both mind and basic technical skills that need to be there,” he explained. “Archery is a sport of consistency. I think both mind and technique work together.”
“You need to have a solid enough technique so that it doesn’t waver too much and you can shoot the same every time, but most importantly you need to have confidence in that technique.”
Since that match in Rio, Woojin has invested more time in visualisation, in forward planning his mind for tournaments, and even for opponents.
“There are some new, talented international archers like Steve Wijler of the Netherlands, and I feel like competitions are getting more serious and more interesting and fun,” he said.
Though he didn’t bag himself a third world crown in 2017, Kim did compete for gold in every stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup he attended – and won the Final in Rome, his second career title on the tour.
Back on the Korean team for 2018, Woojin described the selection process for the squad as “like war”, designed to push each and every athlete harder:
“Even though I’m really happy that I survived, it was at the cost of beating someone else that was competing for the same spot. Now that I’m on the team, I feel like I need to work even harder for that archer who missed out.”
In a pre-match interview for his final with Woojin in Shanghai, the USA’s Brady Ellison described the Korean athlete as “the best archer there has ever been”.
And he’s only 25 years old, and he’s striving to get better.
The 2018 season marks Kim Woojin’s 10th year on the international circuit – yet, somehow, this still feels like only the beginning.
Kim Woojin of Korea is the world’s number one ranked recurve man.