Many of you recently saw on my Facebook page this horror-show stock photo of an archer doing atleast six things wrong, wrong, wrong. He even lends his friend the same bow. Urgh. It’s clear from the sheer number of stock images of archers that it’s a popular enough trope amongst stock photo archives, of which Getty Images is probably the biggest worldwide.
I’ve written about nightmaare stock photos before, e.g. here. Basically, I believe people tend to recognise authenticity when it is put in front of them. When something technical is presented you can always tell when you are seeing an expert doing something rather than just a model, and with archery-based ads that little gleam of reality is only going to enhance the image of rugged individualism / ‘aiming high’ / ‘hitting the target’ etc. that they are trying to project with the product. I mean, some of these things have real archers in them, and they look a lot better. Right? Anyway…
Look at this poor guy, dragged all the way to a field in a nice suit just to shoot a bow strung backwards. And the less said about that finger, the better.
This guy, handed a bow at least strung the right way round, just looks awkward, like he’s never picked up a bow before. A long way from the chisel-jawed thrusting target-smasher they’re presumably wanting the image to sell to you. See also this.
Made a brief stopover this weekend at the World Archery Excellence Centre in Lausanne. Turned out to be a good day to go. The IOC athletes commission was in town for a conference, and all of them got to do have-a-go led by master of ceremonies Juan-Carlos Holgado.
I got to say hello to Olympians Janet Evans and Willie Banks, which was pretty damn cool. Willie Banks, legendary USA triple-jumper, was keen to point out that he had an archery merit badge from when he was 13 years old and in the Eagle Scouts.
At the same time, at the other end of the hall, the legendary Kim Hyung Tak was giving one of his rare masterclasses outside Korea to a small group from across Europe. It was a long weekend of serious shooting and video-assisted training. Good stuff.
In September, I visited Bhutan on behalf of World Archery, and found it one of the most bewitching places on the planet. I wrote a very long piece about archery culture there, which has been split into three parts.
The first part is about the country and Bhutanese traditional archery:
Enjoy, when you have a moment. There’s plenty of pics in the piece, here are some of the other photos I managed to take, when I wasn’t wielding World Archery’s video camera (look out for the results of that a little later :)).
This unique book, first published in 1995 and recently reprinted for the eighth time by Souvenir Press, remains the classic work on archery anatomy and the related topics of biomechanics, alignment and efficiency.
Ray Axford explores the relationship between human anatomy and the anatomy of the bow to help archers, and their coaches, as an outline to how best to co-ordinate the natural movements of the archer and the bow, and efficiently use joints, muscles, bone and tendons. It’s focussed on recurve, but probably a good 80% is directly relatable to compound as well.
It contains literally hundreds of excellent, detailed drawings and diagrams, and is a standard part of many coaching libraries. It’s fairly technical (although it doesn’t require any medical knowledge) and may be better for intermediate archers and up. It would be an excellent aid to video coaching, too.
A lot of archery books discuss (correctly) the mental side of the sport, but this work is entirely about understanding the physical side. If you are serious about archery and/or coaching, owning a copy is probably essential.
Pic: Oh Jin Hyek. The last one you’ll see of Korean archers here.
As their archers head for Mexico, a chapter of Korean archery has closed, The centre that trained two generations of Olympians is eventually closing its doors and the KAA is shifting elite operations to the enormous Jincheon (pronounced ‘chinchun’) facility nearer the centre of South Korea.
The old residential training centre was on the eastern outskirts of Seoul, whereas the new facility, home to a fantastic 39 Olympic sports, is in, well, the middle of nowhere. With Korea hosting the Winter Olympics next year, there has been a major reorganisation and a large injection of cash into elite sport. The archers will still be residential at least during the week, but some may be further from (or nearer to) homes and families.
Chang Hyejin summed it up pretty well in an interview with Segye.com:
Chang Hye-jin,who first lived in the Taerung Village in 2010, said, “It is too bad to leave the village I am familiar with,” but “the facility in Jincheon Village is really huge. All the athletes gather together in one place and think about training, and that is also good. On the other hand, there is really nothing [else] around it, so I’m worried about how I will live while training.”
Jincheon Village (photo via Korea.net)
Some of the other Korean athletes have been waxing nostalgic on social media about their former home, with London 2012 champion Oh Jin Hyek being particularly effusive:
Thank you, Taerung! During your time, all the laughter, anger, sorrow and happiness of Korean western archery was here… the birthplace of gold medals. The place where the athletes of all sports have been sweating for Korean glory … Thank you very much! I will not forget!
Can the KAA keep up the success in their new home? We’ll see.
This month a documentary made about and starring Deepika Kumari called Ladies First has appeared. Shot in the buildup to the Rio 2016 Olympics, where Deepika finished 9th, it has high ambitions:
Ladies First tells the story of Deepika Kumari who, born on the roadside to abject poverty in rural India, went in search of food, stumbled upon archery, and within 4 years became the number one archer in the world!
We document Deepika’s tumultuous path to the Rio 2016 Olympics. Having to overcome the obstacles of a socially repressive system, she strives to achieve her dream of becoming the first Indian woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
Our aim is to create new role models, with the belief that human connection and the power of storytelling is the necessary catalyst for social change, our goal is to connect audiences to an inspirational role model – a girl who is an unstoppable force, a survivor and a fighter. We hope Deepika’s story and her tenacity help dismantle the barriers holding girls back and give them the courage to fight and follow their dreams.
They’ve clearly managed to get Deepika to trust them and open up a little; unusual for an athlete so wary of the media – and she wasn’t, by the sounds of it, very keen on participating if this piece in Vogue India is correct.
You can watch an older trailer here: https://vimeo.com/167603028
Unfortunately there’s no word yet on exactly when, where and how anyone will be able to see this film. (I’ve emailed the filmmakers twice, but had no reply yet).
It’s interesting how the crowd treat the Korean recurve stars; almost like gods dropped in from Valhalla. The rock star status is increasing. Competition-wise: It was mostly one for the favourites, although Braden Gellenthien emerged from the strong field of compound men to take a deserved prize. The experts got it wrong. I mean, one so-called archery expert went zero for four on predictions, there…
Rome was swiftly followed by the World Archery Para Championships in Beijing, at the world’s largest centre for disabled sport. The WA media team is used to being crammed into tiny, too-busy spaces to work; here we had a three storey gym that fitted three basketball courts with room to spare. Quite a place; and a supportive and proud atmosphere like no other. You can read what I briefly wrote about it here.
I had a truly amazing and very lucky trip to Bhutan; the only country in the world where archery is the national sport. Am still writing that one up. More than that; I got over my altitude sickness just enough to make a short film along the way which hopefully should illustrate some of the archery culture – traditonal and Olympic – in that beautiful country. It’s going to be edited over the next month or so and hopefully up and ready in November. Watch this space.
There was this fun thing with Kim Woojin and Chang Hyejin. The machine translated the title, ‘We are always working for those who believe’. I wasn’t sure, so I ran it past a Korean native who I sometimes get to translate things for me, and he said it was good. ‘We are always working for those who believe’. I love it. It’s something that hints at the work ethic of athletes, and the Korean national team in particular.
Easily my most popular post of the month was this egregious piece of very bad archery from a Disney Cruise Lines event. (I did say I was going to retire ‘bad archery’ from this blog, but you know, sometimes you’ve got to. My favourite comment was from Carla Ferrari, who said “The longer you look at it, the worse it gets.” Heh. (Also on the frivolous front, L**s A******n put up a new video – and then took it down again).
In just two weeks, the big dance starts in Mexico City – now a Ki Bo Bae free zone. Unfortunately, I can’t attend that one. Will be following along as best I can. Hopefully it will be a glorious celebration of the sport, just a few weeks after a terrible natural disaster. Let’s make it special.
Kim Woojin and Chang Hyejin, 25 and 30 respectively, are preparing for the World Archery Championships in October, in Mexico.
Woojin led the gold winning men’s team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and Chang Hye-jin won two gold medals in both individual and women’s team. While they both won gold, their personalities are very different. Woojin is the youngest, but the calmest. earning him the nickname, ‘grownup’, and on the other hand Hyejin, the oldest one, is much more warrior-like.
Together they took a gold medal after defeating host country Italy 5-1 at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final mixed team finals held in Rome, Italy on August 3.
The Archery World Cup finals is a tournament in which eight male and female athletes – one from the World Cup Rankings 1 to 7 and one from the host country – shoot tournament style. Kim won the individual competition, four years after Oh Jin-Hyuk in 2013 – the last time a that a Korean male athlete won the World Cup finals. The “Archery brothers and sisters” are on top of the world.
Since the Olympics, you have both won many international competitions.
Chang: I won the gold medal in the Olympics, so I got confidence in my performance.
Kim: I had confidence from the Olympics last year. I was careful because I slipped up on the threshold of making the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and it took a lot of strength to overcome the pressure and the burden. Since Rio, I have been shooting a lot more boldly.
Woojin’s new quiver. Gom, or 곰, means ‘bear’.
It seems that getting through the domestic qualification tournament is harder than winning the international competition. Rio Olympic men’s gold medalist Ku Bonchan and team gold medalist Lee Seungyun have been eliminated.
Kim: When I first started 8 years ago when I was a high school senior, the competition was extremely fierce and still is. If you shot well, you stayed, but if you didn’t, you had to leave, I was nervous.
How do you feel when your colleagues suddenly disappear?
Kim: The world of competition is tough. You have to survive solely on your skills, not networks of friends and family members. If it was all done with favours between members, Korea wouldn’t be the strong archery nation we have today. Of course, it’s not nice to see one of your teammates leave. I also was one of [those leaving] for approximately a year, so I know what it feels like. When I see them, I see them with the mind that we will have our day again to go to competitions together.
Chang: I used to cry when my friends dropped out of the team, but now I’m a bit older I think to myself and tell them that it’s not like we won’t be able to meet anymore.
Both of you have been eight years on the national team. It seems that the training centre must be like your home now.
Kim: I am now more comfortable sleeping in the village than at home.
Chang: No matter how much time goes by, it’s still just ‘the village’. I’m still more comfortable at home. (laughs)
What do you do to relax?
Chang: It is not easy for me to meet my parents often because they’re all the way out in Daegu, but I like to have a ‘restaurant’ tour with my family.
Kim: I go down to the Han [river] and inhale the chicken and cola, and I like to watch movies with my friends. Pirates of the Caribbean, yeah.
Chang Hyejin & Ki Bo Bae after their semifinal match. Rome 2017
Ki Bo Bae announce she was getting married. Have you had any thoughts in that direction?
Chang: I have talked about it a lot with my friend, but we did not think about marriage since we were always training in the national team. (laughs) I once joked to Bobae that I would be left alone if she got married, but now… hey, congratulations on your marriage, Bobae!
Kim: I told Bobae congratulations on her marriage. I am still young and I have no thoughts about marriage yet. Not right now, but I do want a girlfriend. I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing archery and marriage at the same time.
Tell us about the world championship next month.
Chang: The world title is not something you can say is easy. A representing athlete to has to train hard even on the day when the body is aching and wants to rest. But I’ve been doing it for the past eight years. The feeling and emotion, the spark I get when I shoot 10 points in a match is what keeps me going. I want to feel that feeling in this world championship. The goal is to win.
Kim: I want to get good results in both individual and group matches. This is the biggest major tournament since the Olympics. We have been doing well in this year’s competitions and we will be able to do well this time. We are always working for those who believe.
I had the honour of working at these in Beijing. You can find all the coverage at World Archery. Am just going to add a couple of pics here, most of which I took from my tent position, face on to the athletes.
It was a great meet, with the final day especially of really outstanding quality and exciting competition, lots of comebacks and great final pushes. Tricky conditions, though, especially for wheelchair athletes; it was a mostly hot and humid week.
It’s awesome how much the para community treats it both as a serious competition and a chance to see friends and colleagues from all over the world. It’s a festival that they have every couple of years. See you at ’s-Hertogenbosch 2019.
The Azzurri not being quite forza against Iran. Cracking match.
Zhou Jiamin. Could deliver punchy, awesome quotes about sport. On cue. In English. We loved her
Andre Shelby. An absolute stand-up dude in a field crammed with stand-up dudes and dudettes.