Celebrating the 100-year anniversary of archery’s most-decorated Olympian
Archery has had two stints on the sports programme of the modern Olympic Games.
It debuted at Paris in 1900, featured in St. Louis and London in 1904 and 1908, respectively, and then returned 12 years later for Antwerp in 1920.
But then it was removed, largely due to a lack of consistency in competition format and structure.
World Archery was founded in 1931 with the express mission of reclaiming a spot for the sport at the Games. That goal was accomplished in 1972, and archery has remained at the Olympics ever since.
The two distinct eras invite inevitable comparisons. If you ask somebody to name the most successful archer at the Games, they will likely give you one of two answers.
Kim Soo-Nyung won four gold medals, one silver and one bronze across three Olympic appearances in 1988, 1992 and 2000. Since 1972, she has won more golds and had more podiums than any athlete in the sport.
But the winningest archer in Olympic history is actually Belgium’s Hubert van Innis.
Van Innis competed at two Games – the first of the early era, in Paris in 1900, and the last, in Antwerp in 1920 – and won nine medals in total: three silvers and six golds.
Today, 5 August 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Hubert’s last Olympic event.
Age 67 at the time of the Games in Antwerp, no other Olympic archery event would be held in his lifetime. Van Innis died at the age of 95 in 1961. But he continued to shoot his bow well into his later years, winning a team gold at the World Archery Championships in 1933.
There’s a statue of him in his hometown of Elewijt, and his great-great-granddaughter is currently the 19th-ranked compound woman in the world.
Sarah Prieels may not carry the ‘van Innis’ name, but she certainly carries its legacy.
With a maximum of three Olympic medals available to a single archer for the first time in Tokyo – since 1988, it has been just two – it would take any currently active international archer at least two more Games to even equal his record of nine podiums. Just 14 athletes since 1972 have multiple gold medals, and 11 of those are Korean women.
It seems unlikely that Hubert van Innis will be upstaged as archery’s most successful Olympian any time soon.
Medal leaders 1900-1920
The most successful Olympic athletes during archery’s first stint on the programme.
- Hubert van Innis, Belgium – 9 (6 gold, 3 silver)
- Edmond Cloetens, Belgium – 3 (3 gold)
- Edmond van Moer, Belgium – 3 (3 gold)
- Lida Howell, USA – 3 (3 gold)
Medal leaders 1972-2016
The most successful Olympic athletes since archery’s return to the programme.
- Kim Soo-Nyung, Korea – 6 (4 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
- Park Sung-Hyun, Korea – 4 (3 gold, 1 silver)
- Ki Bo Bae, Korea – 4 (3 gold, 1 bronze)
- Yun Mi Jin, Korea – 3 (3 gold)