Ki Bo Bae is still clearly carrying some sway on Korean sports media, and was happy to do an interview, which ended up rather tearful at points. If you want the details, try reading this piece in translation, but the gist of it is: she is really genuine in her desire to continue as an athlete, but she’s finding combining motherhood and training very difficult indeed.
In the first stage of the selection process for Tokyo, an open tournament that cut to 64 at the end of August, she came 37th. With only three spots available, those hoping for the big comeback next year may have to start adjusting their expectations.
It’s tough at the top, and tougher for parents. There are now multiple parents of young children on the elite recurve lines, including Taylor Worth, Ksenia Perova, Inna Stepanova, Taru Kuoppa, Lidiia Sichenikova, Alexandra Mirca, Lee Seungyun and Oh Jin Hyek to name but a few. Perhaps the greatest Korean Olympic archer of all, Kim Soo Nyung was a parent of two children when she made her comeback to win team gold at Sydney 2000, although you could argue that that was in an era where there was [slightly] less competition for the three crucial spots.
It’s difficult to imagine a ferocious competitor like Bo Bae giving up, but perhaps her life has shifted onto a different track now.
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.
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.
Chang Hyejin’s Instagram page is awesome. It’s not the formal look-at-me-I-did-this page of an Olympic champion, it’s the page of someone enjoying the hell out of taking very arch photographs of themselves, someone obviously enjoying their life and – as previously mentioned – finally being in the spotlight. It’s also someone with a decent sense of how to compose a picture, selfie or no.
There’s are plenty of archers racking up views on social media, you can have a look at some of the American Insta wing here, although for sheer numbers no archer even comes close to Deepika Kumari’s quarter of a million Facebook followers. (I also notice she’s using one of my pics uncredited – glad that 3,000+ people like it, I guess). But nobody is yet beating Hyejin for awesomely silly, exuberant joy on social media right now.
Somehow missed this excellent short about the Korean team which came out shortly after Rio last year. It features Kang Chae Young, who had to suffer the agony of coming fourth, by the tiniest of margins, in the Olympic trials and not making the trip to Brazil. It’s pretty amazing to me how she dealt with it.
On a wider level it contains some interesting notes about the Olympic roots in traditional archery, mental strength and about dealing with fear – apparently by bungee jumping. The long-repeated canard about the Korean team once being made to handle live snakes in order to face down fears comes out again, although I’ve never been able to ascertain if this is true or not.
At the end Kang says that she hopes to be able to come back and win medals at the Olympics or the Asian Games again; notably, the World Championships are missing from that list. 🙂 It’s difficult to get across just how important the Asian Games are to Korean archers and Korean sport in general, played out against a backdrop of fierce historical rivalries and regarded almost on a par with the Olympics. (Next year’s edition will be in Indonesia). Anyway, enjoy.
Kim Woojin (in glasses) at Shanghai 2015. Photo: The Infinite Curve
Kim Woo-jin knows that getting a spot on the Korean national archery team can be more difficult than winning international events.
And like most athletes this year, the 23-year-old archer is aiming for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Though there are two trials left for Korean archers to qualify for the national team, Kim is regarded as the frontrunner for a spot.
After clinching silver medals in the men’s singles at the World Cup event last year, Kim went on to win gold in the World Archery Championships in July, both single and team. It was his second world title after 2011.
Having the momentum, he claimed the Aquece Rio International Archery Challenge, which doubled as a Rio 2016 Olympic test event, in September 2015. As a result, Kim became No.1 in world rankings in men’s recurve, edging his teammate Lee Seung-yun.
Kim, who is with the Cheongju City Hall archery team, said that he has a good feeling about his performance this year. The two-time Worlds champion is born in the year of monkey under the Chinese Zodiac, which happens to be the same as this year.
“I’m kind of thrilled since the Olympics is in the year of the monkey,” he said. “I have a feeling that things may go well. Going to the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The Rio Games will be his first Olympics. Kim first represented Korea when he was a senior at Chungbuk Physical Education High School in North Chungcheong. In 2010, he won two gold medals – men’s single and team – at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China to signal his start.
In 2011, Kim also won two gold medals at World Cup events and everyone thought his spot at the London Summer Games in 2012 was secure.
“Back then, my shots hit the target in every event,” he said. “Many people thought my spot at the Olympics was guaranteed.”
But his early success didn’t help him. Kim admitted that people’s praise of his results made him lose focus and get lazy. His performance started to slip and he eventually finished fourth in qualification for the London Olympics, losing his spot on the national team.
“I was utterly shocked. I felt as if I fell straight to the bottom,” he said. “The failure continued to haunt me.”
It was a slump, according to Kim. At one point, Kim started to think it might end his career.
“Anxiety continued to distress me as I constantly missed the target. As a result, my records started to fall,” he said. “I changed my equipment, but it didn’t help.”
But he didn’t give up. Although he had to leave the Taereung National Training Center, he continued with his training at his club’s practice center.
“I had to increase the amount of my practice,” he said. “I used to shoot 400 to 500 arrows a day at Taereung. Once I was kicked out of there, I began shooting 600 to 700 shots daily. I often got blisters on my hands.”
Kim said his senior teammates helped him to recover. His role model Park Kyung-mo, the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist archer and now coach for the Gongju City Hall archery team, also advised Kim to start anew.
Kim’s hard work began to bear fruit. In 2012 and 2013, Kim only competed in domestic tournaments to improve his condition. In 2014, he returned to competition on the international stage. In 2015, he successfully reclaimed his spot in the national team.
The four years since his failure to qualify for the London Games made Kim prudent and cautious. This was evident as he discussed the Rio Games.
“The reason behind my silence regarding the Olympics is because of my past experience in 2012. I have become more defensive since then,” he said. “I guess I was always a serious person though.”
But Kim said he won’t repeat the same mistake.
His goal to get to the Olympics is set for this year. But Kim wants to stay patient.
“I don’t think failing to enter the national team four years ago was entirely bad for me,” he said. “It was actually a good experience for me in preparing for the upcoming summer games.”
Though he was reluctant to talk about his goal at the Olympics, Kim finally admitted, not surprisingly, that he was aiming for the gold medal.
“To tell the truth, I imagine winning the gold medal at Rio before I go to sleep every night,” he said. “Some say image training helps one’s dream to become reality one day. If I’m qualified for the Olympics, I want to be remembered by the fans and the only way for me to achieve that is by grabbing gold.”
Today is the 120th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games, which you can read about here. It’s also a day when the Korea Archery Association has further whittled down their squad towards the exulted threes who will go to – almost certainly – take some gold medals back to Seoul from this year’s ‘big dance’ in Rio.
Regular readers will know of my particular fascination with Korean Olympic archery. Someone in Archery GB – the UK governing body – once said to me words to the effect of “you should be concentrating your blog on archery at home”. To which I replied “You don’t have a pop at Match Of The Day for mostly focussing on the Premier League, do you?”. I didn’t actually say that. I thought of it two minutes later. Of course.
The dedication required to be a world-class Olympian in any sport is immense. The dedication to being a world-class Olympic archer is off the actual chart. The genetic lottery is less important – not everybody can be Usain Bolt – but the mental discipline required simply staggers me. I don’t have it. I don’t have anything like it. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so fascinated by elite archery.
So it’s not often you get a glimpse into what it really takes at the highest level, which I why I’m grateful for this English language interview with last year’s rookie Kang “The Destroyer” Chae Young from late last year. This is taken from Kyung Hee University’s news blog, her current school (and also the alma mater of Yun Mi Jin). It’s worth your time.
There are a lot of people who have dreams but do not put much effort into achievement. However, there is nothing we can accomplish without hard work. We cannot get anything for free. Kang Chae Young, a freshman in the Dept. of Sports Medicine, KHU, is an archer and member of the 2015 Korean national team. She has set a goal and always tried to achieve it from a young age. She won 15 medals in the first half of 2015.
Q: You are famous for acquiring a lot of medals in one year. How do you feel about being a super rookie?
I did not realize that I won a lot of them. However, I am very pleased with the medals. They are rewards for my efforts. I got good scores because I did not stop participating in competitions from April to August including the first World Cup of the World Archery Federation held in Shanghai, China and the 2015 Gwangju Summer Universiade. The most memorable game was the first World Cup Recurve where I won three gold medals in women’s individual, team and mixed game. At that moment, I was very happy. However, I still have a lot of improvements to make. My ability must advance enough to do well in further competitions. A few days ago, in the National Championships, I earned a gold medal and two silver medals. There, I had to receive two silver medals instead of gold medals because I missed only a single point. I decided to overcome my shortcomings with continued efforts. I have to try harder than I did in the past.
Q: How much time and efforts do you invest in archery?
It is important for all archers to shoot arrows every day. Whenever games are coming up, I do extra practice at night and on weekends. Usually, we get break time on Saturday nights and Sundays. But to be a more outstanding player than anyone, I try to do extra. I keep concentrating on hitting the target while thinking that I will shoot more precisely than any other archers. My left hand has held a bow for long hours at a time so it is callused. Also, my shoulders easily get hurt after a lot of harsh training. These made me difficult to focus on archery and I easily get worried about future competitions. However, even in the situation when the weather was bad, I have done regular practice for six hours enduring pains in my shoulders.
Q: What motivates you to train this hard?
Setting and reaching goals motivate me to strive harder. Although I get exhausted from training hard, I never give up. I have to bear this to become a much better athlete. Harsh training is essential. Actually, I like to achieve a goal after setting it. I can feel a sense of accomplishment after doing it. For example, I am better at aiming at targets when I am in games than in practice because I have a goal to be awarded more medals.
At the same time, Kang is like any other young, bright girl in her twenties. She mentioned that she is on a diet while revealing how she enjoys eating delicious food. The interview was progressed until almost 8 p.m. which was the difficult time to grab something to eat. She expected this to happen and had prepared some bread and a cup of ice tea. It seems that she is also very considerate of others.
Q: Then, what is your dream?
In the short run, I want to be selected as an archer for the Korean national team for 2016 and attend Brazil Olympics held in the summer. My dream is to earn gold medals both in individual and team games like Ki Bo-bae, a remarkable archer. After a few years, I have the desire to be a great medalist and have a place in the history of Korea with a grand slam title. The reason I do not have an exact role model of an athlete is that I want to surpass all of them. In the long run, I will be a member of the Korean national team for 10 years from now. To achieve it, first, I will try to estimate myself better during the competitions. I usually have practiced the archery with low self-esteem. I have kept thinking of myself as poor and lacking necessary capabilities. I have never bragged about myself. However, I now notice that if I continue to do so, I would become more nervous in games and cannot show my real abilities. From now on, I will concentrate on upcoming games with the confidence and the responsibility as a representative of Korea.
Q: You may have given up on normal life, such as being a university student, to become an archer. What do you miss most?
I miss going on dates or hanging out with friends the most. Since my daily life is occupied with shooting arrows, it is difficult for me to enjoy their company. I also miss my school life as a freshman. I want to have blind dates or go on orientation trips with friends. Last semester, I applied for a yachting class but I could not attend it. I wish I could take that course again. I do not feel bad that I can only attend classes once or twice each semester. I love training and staying here in the Korean National Training Center in Taereung. I can overcome the circumstances because such experience is vital for me to accomplish my dream.
Q: Could you advise those who do not have a goal at all or put little effort toward a goal?
When people are living without a goal, life is meaningless. I hope they can find what they want no matter how long it takes. They will regret it later when they look back at their past full of meaninglessness. When setting a goal, I hope they can choose not only what they like but also what they are interested in. For those who pour fewer efforts into obtaining goals, planning even smaller things would be helpful.
Kang emphasizes, “Life is a competition. It is essential for us to make continual efforts to move our dreams forward.” In these words, the UL felt her passion and strong will to overcome further hardships and to make her dream come true.
The selection process had a special emphasis on shoot-offs, given the high profile wins and losses the KAA has seen this last cycle. KBS produced a short video about it. The squad list looks fairly similar to last year, but the shoot was crushingly dominated on the men’s side (again) by Kim Woojin and the women’s by Choi Misun.
Woojin, denied a selection place at London 2012 when reigning world champion, seems unlikely to be losing out this time – and the current wunderkinds Lee Woo Seok, Kin JongHo and Lee Eun Gyeong might beat out the more experienced hands yet. I personally hope Chang Hyejin gets to go to Rio, she was the fourth for London 2012 and is one of the few archers of her generation and ability (along with Jung Dasomi) not to have an Olympic medal.
It raises the tantalising possibility that Ki Bo Bae or Oh Jin Hyek – or even both – might be able to defend their individual Olympic titles, too – something that has never been done before. But there is little room for sentimentality or epic narrative in the KAA – all will have to go through two separate further selection tournaments to make the Olympic team.
The Rio threes will be announced on April 19th this year – just a few days before they will all (presumably) be leaving for Shanghai.