Olympic Champion Chang Hye Jin admits she is a poor practiser
Competition isn’t about being the archer with the best technique, nor the one who can theoretically perform – it’s about shooting an arrow in the middle when it matters.
Practice is important. The amount the Korean team practises is documented and, well, true. An international averages around 350 a day (less, they say, than someone not on the team).
But quantity does not mean quality.
“I’ve learned over the years that I really don’t focus well during practice. I just can’t focus for long periods of time,” admitted Chang Hye Jin. “I really don’t shoot well in practice, and that’s because I can’t focus well enough and I don’t get good groups.”
Yet, in competition, the diminutive winner of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games excels. When it matters, Chang delivers.
She’s needing to deliver right now in Korea as the selection process for the squad that will represent the world’s leading archery nation internationally in 2019 gets underway. There’s still a long way to go, but Chang is one of the leaders.
“I’ve been shooting Korean national team selections for about 10 years but I shoot it differently now than when I first started,” she said.
The selection competitions are long. Each day starts at around eight in the morning and finishes at five or six in the evening – for an entire week.
“Archers who don’t have a lot of experience with the tournament format end up getting eliminated after they can’t keep up physically, then break down mentally,” said Hye Jin.
“You really have to look at the big picture so you don’t focus too hard and lose yourself in each match. Rather, you must shoot so that you have the mental and physical stamina to last until the end.”
When this phase of Korean selections finishes, the eight-athlete recurve squad will be announced. There’s then another stage just before the first leg of the 2019 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Medellin that will choose the team that travels.
Despite being ranked as the number one recurve woman in the world, Chang Hye Jin must still compete for one of those spots on the team.
But that’s fine… because it is when it matters that this competition-proven archer shoots her best arrows.