So I was really pleased that Chinese Taipei women got a medal. I’ve become a bit of a fanboy of their team. They seem to want it just as much as the Koreans, with just as much to prove. Their technique is spectacular, effortless.
The match of the day on women’s team Saturday was the Chinese Taipei v Mexico semi-final. 4-0 down, Aida Roman blew it with the last arrow due to time issues, and Taipei pulled out an absolutely blistering, confident comeback. No match after that on Sunday was better – and some were downright terrible.
The ladies in blue never really mounted enough of a challenge against Korea in the semi. You could feel there wasn’t enough under the hood. If they’d qualified second, hammered their bracket and met them in the final maybe the story would have been different – even just a little bit.
In the interminable press conference afterwards the Korean women were keen to listen to what Taipei had to say and shot them respectful glances, reminding me of how the USA men bowed to the men in white after the final on Saturday. I really enjoy the respect shown at the very highest level.
Russia lucked their way through some inconsistent opponents to get to the last match, but the way they were shooting, you knew they were going home with silver. Unlike Saturday’s top seed action, this was a coronation of the Korean women. Although some questions remain; individually, there are just a few chinks of light in the armour. I can’t see a clean white sweep of the podium.
I’m writing this on Day 3. I just walked past Kim Woojin, tanked by serial giant killer Ega Agatha Riau in the day’s biggest news story. He was laughing, although someone said they saw him crying too. I was in the OBS pen when Aida Roman broke down in tears, on camera, after her first round loss to Alexandra Mirca. It was agonising to be there, nearly set me off too when transcribed the tape.
I was willing on Ane Marcelle Dos Santos, as was everybody else in the stadium. The best ever Olympic result for a Brazilian archer. Pandemonium. Mobbed by the crowd afterwards. She’s awesome.
Anyway, enjoy some backstage pics from today and yesterday. Keep following along wherever you are. I’m still hoping this Games is remembered for all the right reasons. – John.
Sunset from Main Press Centre, Barra Olympic Park, Rio De Janeiro
So I’ve made it to Rio. Been here less than 24 hours of this writing. I haven’t seen much yet, and there’s a lot to take in – this place is enormous – but with a bit of polish and paint, it’s going to be incredible.
So World Archery has selected the six nations to receive tripartite places for Rio; three men, three women. The Tripartite Commission awards places in 16 sports to nations, often developing or very geographically small countries, who have only sent a small athlete delegation to the last couple of summer Games, so to enhance the Olympics’ universality and make sure smaller nations get a chance to compete on the world stage.
I’m stoked to see that Areneo David, from the landlocked country of Malawi in southern Africa is on the list. David is the best archer developed by the extraordinary ‘Sally’ Park, who shot for Korea at the LA Olympics and has been been an archer, coach, and international judge ever since.
She was seized with missionary zeal a few years ago and decided it was her mission to bring Olympic sport to Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. With sponsorship from a Korean bank , she managed to overcome severe logistical and educational difficulties to develop a series of archers.
Due to the ranking and seeding system, tripartite archers often end up facing top level opposition. In London, the tripartite matches got some of the biggest cheers of all – the British love an underdog. I’m kinda hoping the Brazilian crowds do too.
There’s a general sense that things are going to work. The only black spot this week has been the ongoing row over Olympic golf, with now none of the four top golfers in the world taking part in the competition, mostly claiming it was due to the Zika virus. Unguarded comments by Rory McIlroy seem to have confirmed what a lot of people have suspected, that it might just not be that high up the priority list.
Brief video from the Smithsonian channel exploring the differences between a yumi and a longbow, briefly explaining why recurves are more efficient than simpler self-bow designs.
Amongst the many things it doesn’t explain or gets wrong include why the longbow became popular despite more efficient composite designs existing contemporaneously. The reason is that it was a mass-produced weapon, much cheaper and quicker to manufacture and requiring less maintenance and care than composite Eastern bows – the Kalashnikov of its day. The classic English yew longbow of historical battles also used much higher draw weights than the 50lb weapon shown here, usually 100lb and up for long range, heavy war arrows on European battlefields, very different to short-range (and often mounted) samurai combat.
It ends with a slo-mo illustration of archer’s paradox on the longbow, without explaining why the yumi doesn’t suffer from it as much (it’s to do with twisting the bow on release, as I understand), and without explaining why it’s not an issue.
Unfortunately, archery is complicated, and traditional archery even more so – but the conventions of TV mean that things get reduced to ‘which one is better’. That’s OK. If you want more, there’s a big deep pool to dive into which you can swim in for life. 😉
On New Year’s Day, the KAA reported that they had sent the entire recurve squad hiking up Mount Bulam-san in northeastern Seoul, before dawn, accompanied by the training staff. The slightly breathless journalist who accompanied this onerous publicity stunt said:
“Our National Archery Team started off the new year with a hike up Mount Bulam-san a symbol of their resolution and dedication as the world’s best. Reporter Jung Chan Lee accompanied them…. At the dawn of 2015, the archery team were the first ones up and about in the Taerung (the Korean National Training Center). After layering up for the cold (-12ºC /10ºF) at 5:30 AM, they started out in a strong gait towards Mount Bulam-san, shouting “Fighting!”.
After an hour of hiking passed, sweat drops began to form on their faces despite the frigid winds that slapped against them. “The water’s frozen,” they exclaimed.
Soon, the sky begins to light up, as does the countenances of the archery team. They have finally reached the top.
But the happiness was not to last for long as they quickly realized that there was no place to hide from the freezing winds at the top of the mountain. Such is their current stature in archery: fierce winds of rivalry storm towards them, as is the fate of those at the top of the world rankings.
Oh Jin-Hyuk said: “It is difficult to advance further when you stand at the top, but I believe that everything will turn out for the best.”
Chang Hye Jin said: “With your support and love, we will strive to defend our title as the world’s best.”
The National Team declared their year’s resolution, as they enter the world championships to compete for entry to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, in one voice: “ARCHERY IS FUN!”
They say that those who enjoy what they do can’t be beat; the national archery team resolved to the first sunrise with a joyful heart that they will protect their position at the top.”
(via Chosun TV). Thanks to Grace Kim for translation. Watch it here:
At the recent Asian Games, Korean archers and coaches collectively received nearly 880 million won (over £500,000 / $800,000) in bonuses from their sponsor Hyundai for the five golds, three silvers and one bronze medal they took home from Incheon.
The going rate for a gold medal is 70 million won (about £41,000 / $65,000), with 60 million won for a silver and 50 for a bronze. Not bad, and apparently more than the government bonus for Olympic gold medals in 2012 – although in Korea that also gets you a monthly stipend for life. Hyundai handed out similar bonuses to the medallists after London, and indeed Korea’s big corporations step in with cash for all kinds of Olympic sports, and become fairy godfathers to many types of athletes.
Many nations dole out cash for Olympic success. The top payer is Singapore, who sent just 26 athletes to London, offering $800,000 dollars to any of their sportsmen who take home a gold medal (although in 2012, this prize went unclaimed). The ‘table’ looks like this:
(Yes, that’s right. Unlike almost every country in the world, Britain pays nothing at all for Olympic achievement.)
As for Korea, I am increasingly convinced that the main reason that that nation dominates the sport isn’t the training regime, or the talent identification system, or the professional leagues – it’s the money. In the case of the KAA, something like half the operating budget ultimately comes from Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia Motors. The historical reason for this is that in the early 1980s the authoritarian government leaned on their big corporations to fund Olympic sports – specifically, less popular sports – by giving them tax breaks to do so. This involved Hyundai actually taking over the NGB – thus began the Korean archery machine.
The governments changed, but over time the corporations came to see funding Olympic sports as both an excellent overseas marketing opportunity and a useful, very public exercise in social responsibility. The success of Korean archery and the success of Hyundai/Kia reflect each other; a win-win situation. The KAA and its powerful sponsor remain deeply entwined today, as was seen in Incheon when its formidable patron and chairman Chung Eui-Sun – vice-chairman of Hyundai – took the extraordinary step of rebuilding sections of the archery field after complaints were raised by the attending media. The immense amount of corporate funding allows for a deep pool of dozens of professional athletes to develop to their fullest potential, rather than the two or three per generation in every other country. That’s the real ‘secret’.
So, how can any other nation compete with that? I still think archery in the UK could attract sponsorship money, because it is invariably intriguing and dramatic to laymen – it’s saleable, and it’s hot right now (certainly compared to many other sports). The entry barriers are lower; partly because it needs much less ‘explaining’ than some other sports. World Archery has managed to pull in long-term deals from a wide variety of international brands with very different markets and brand values.
Of course, the Korean national team is the only archery squad in the world with that kind of cash ‘carrot’ at the end of a non-Olympic competition, and indeed, that kind of patronage, but it is ultimately indicative of a culture. South East Asia highly values its Olympic sportsmen and women and sees international achievement as a deep source of national pride, and its oligarchical system rewards that accordingly (it should be noted that the Asian Games is played out against a daunting backdrop of fierce historical rivalries). In the UK, unless you play cricket or football you receive little more than a pat on the back and a ‘jolly good show’ from the establishment.
The cult of the amateur is over. Unfortunately, international success in sport needs money, spent professionally and ruthlessly.
Apparently the 2015 edition of the Guinness World Records is out and: “Nancy ‘Inka” Siefker, 29, made it into the Guinness World Records 2015 book for the farthest arrow shot with the feet. The circus artist from California is able to shoot an arrow 6.09m (20ft) onto a target measuring just 5.5 inches.” Have a look here.
Hmmm. Well, she could shoot it further by angling her legs up (I guess), so I presume they mean ‘into a target’. And Guinness apparently accept any old bullshit as a record provided you pay them to show up, but that’s not really the issue. It’s a great trick, but ultimately, what someone like Matt Stutzman does is far more amazing – and he breaks world records too.
After a tournament which briefly looked like it was veering dangerously away from the script followed by previous Asiads, the recurve finals finally delivered the hoped-for ‘Golden Sunday’ for the home nation.
After the shock semi-final defeat for the Korean men’s team on Friday – the first at an Asian Games for over thirty years – they had to suffer the relative indignity of fighting it out with Japan for the bronze medal, which they won 5 sets to 3. Japan came back in the third end to tie the score, but sent down two eights in the final end to hand the Korean men the bronze and a sliver of self-esteem.
The gold medal match was contested between China and Malaysia, who had unexpectedly beaten Japan to book their place here. It was a one-sided affair that saw the Chinese men comprehensively outscore their opponents to take gold.
“We hadn’t expected that we could win so fast,” said Yong Zhiwei. “But we believed in ourselves. We had faith in the team. Mu Yong, the manager of the Chinese archery team, said: “They showed no fear at all.”
In the women’s team event, Japan beat India for the bronze medal, capping a miserable week for India’s recurves who left the competition empty-handed after their compound teammates grabbed four medals yesterday and sent India into the overall top ten.
In the gold match, the pressure was weighing heavy on the Korean ladies to beat China – particularly after their last two finals ended in defeat, and the Chinese team had beaten them in competition as recently as June. In the end, they needn’t have worried. After three tense sets that saw the Chinese archers’ form fall away – they hit the ten ring just twice – the crowd roared and Korea had their precious recurve gold, with an emotional team bursting into tears afterwards. Lee Tuk-Young said afterwards: “There’s been some incredibly hard work over the last ten months, but I’m really glad to be part of history.” She also credited ‘elder sister’ Joo Hyun-Jung, who was unable to take part in the team event due to injury, as part of the team’s success “because our hearts beat as one”, in an elegant illustration of the particularly deep emotional bond between KAA teams.
The individual competition brought another Chinese medal, as Xu Jing took the bronze medal match from Japan’s Ren Hayakawa 7-3 after being 3-1 down after two ends. In the men’s bronze match, Kuo Cheng Wei of Chinese Taipei beat Hideki Kikuchi 6-2 to finish a relatively disappointing meet for Japan’s highly consistent recurvers, who would definitely have hoped for more. Japan, along with China, were also the only major archery nations not to send a compound squad.
The women’s individual field inevitably came down to the two Koreans in-form this year, and Jung Dasomi thumped Chang Hye-Jin 7-1 in a gold medal match that saw her miss the middle just twice in twelve arrows. She finished the job with a 10-10-10 end.
The men’s gold match saw the familiar hulking frame of Oh Jin-Hyek, the Olympic champion, take on the young Chinese athlete – and apparently, ‘ladies man‘ – Yong Zhiwei, who had already won a gold medal that morning in the team event. The crowd went silent as Yong raced out to a 4-0 lead, before his form slipped and Oh reeled off three straight sets to take the title, looking relieved after a final end that saw both archers wobble. Reading from the standard Korean sporting script, he said afterwards: “I concentrated on my last shot, but I scored eight. I was fortunate to win a gold medal and I will continue to do well.”
In the end, there weren’t a great many surprises. Most of the medals went to the usual powerhouse nations, with some strong runs from Malaysia and the Philippines – plus a special mention to the quarter-final performance of men’s recurver Pak Yong-Won of the DPRK. The athletes delivered. For the home nation, the KAA pressure cooker had done its job and delivered the expected medals in their most important tournament apart from the Olympics. It remains to be seen if the KAA will continue to develop and maintain a high-level compound squad, and if the men’s performances will match the women’s in either discipline. The Asian nations have proved spectacularly strong on the international archery circuit this year, and on this outing, that looks set to continue for a long time to come.
INCHEON, Korea: The Indian squad had an extraordinary day in windy conditions on the Gyegang field, as the men’s compound team capped a highly successful day for India by clinching a historic gold medal, beating favourites Korea 227-225. Rajat Chauhan, Sandeep Kumar and Abhishek Verma shot consistently in the middle from the second arrow on, in a closely-fought contest that saw the hosts’ second shooter Min Li-Hong send down a 7 in the 4th end to sink the Korean boat. Afterwards, Chauhan said: “We have been noticing India’s position on the medals table every day and were determined to win the gold today. We are delighted to have done it.”
The team’s extensive preparation for the Asiad appears to have paid off, according to coach Rajan Singh: “We went to Salt Lake City in the USA and trained with Dee Wilde (father of Reo) for 15 days. Then we came and trained in Korea in different weather conditions at Gwangju here for a month before reaching here for the Games.” said Singh, a former junior national champion. Abhishek Verma said: “I knew how to perform under pressure… We are all delighted to win the gold. We were not overawed by our opponents.” Iran beat the Phillippines for the bronze medal.
In the women’s team contest, strong favourites Korea finally took a gold medal, beating Chinese Taipei 229-226. The women’s team had already broken the world record for a team 24-arrow match earlier in the week, and didn’t miss the gold once. India easily beat Iran for the bronze. Afterwards, Choi Bomin pointed to the sky to dedicate the victory to former KAA youth coach Shin Hyeon-Jong who had recently passed away.
In the women’s individual compound, India’s Trisha Deb couldn’t keep her strong run going against Seok Ji-Hyun, but lucked out to beat Huang I Jou in the bronze medal match. Deb was trailing from the first end, but the Chinese Taipei athlete unexpectedly missed with her penultimate arrow in the last end to hand her victory. The gold medal match was contested between Koreans Seok Ji-Hyun and Choi Bomin, turning into a dramatic contest which saw the lead swinging back and forth with Choi shooting the last end clean to win by just a single point, 144-143.
The men’s contest saw some less familiar names in an international archery final without the usual European and American stars. Iran has long been strong in compound archery and Esmaeil Ebadi took the lead from the second end to beat India’s Abhishek Verma 145-141 in both athletes’ second appearances of the day. The match was a re-run of the first Asian Grand Prix final from this year, also won by Ebadi. The bronze medal went to Paul Marton De La Cruz of the Phillippines.
Two gold medals for Korea means that the women’s recurve team and Oh Jin-Hyek will both have to take gold tomorrow in order for the host nation to meet its stated target of “four to six” golds from the eight available. But today belonged to a superb Indian squad with a well deserved gold, silver and two bronze medals from the first compound programme at these Games.
The competition continues with the recurve finals tomorrow.
INCHEON, Korea. Recurve eliminations day on a rain-soaked Gyegang Asiad Archery Field, and the host nation was shocked by the defeat of the mighty Korean men’s team, beaten by the Chinese by 5 set points to 4 in the semi-final. In windier conditions than previous days, the match went to a shoot-off, where the teams tied on 29 points but the Chinese won by being closest to the centre.
The Korean men have won every Asian Games team gold for the last eight editions of the Games going all the way back to 1982; now they must fight it out for bronze with Japan on Sunday, who unexpectedly lost their semi-final 5-1 to a resurgent Malaysia. Afterwards, Oh Jin-Hyek described the tournament as “harder than the Olympics”.
The KAA was quick to defend the team. The Korean women’s national team coach, Ryu Su-Jeong said: “Korean archery is still winning, but is becoming more difficult.” Joo Hyun-Jung added, “Gold isn’t something to be taken for granted.” It appears that making the national team might be becoming something of a poisoned chalice; with the staggering achievements of the past and the sky-high expectations making any falls from grace that much harder.
In the women’s team event, Korea cruised through to the gold medal match, despite Joo Hyun-Jung having to pull out of the squad with a rotator cuff injury and being replaced by Lee Tuk-Young. They beat Kazakhstan before crushing India in the semifinal, and will face China in the final on Saturday. Despite the usual dominant display, the pressure is firmly on, as the Korean ladies have lost two finals in a row – to Japan in the Asian Grand Prix and to the same Chinese team at the World Cup in Antalya in June this year. A disappointed India will face Japan for the bronze.
There was slightly better news for the Koreans in the individual finals, although Lee Seungyun unexpectedly fell to Yong Zhiwei of China in the quarter-finals by a single point. Most matches went to form, setting up some intriguing clashes for Sunday. In the recurve men, Kuo Cheng Wei of Chinese Taipei will face Oh Jin-Hyek of Korea, with Yong Zhiwei of China facing Hideki Kukuchi of Japan in the other semi. In the recurve women, Jung Dasomi of Korea will face Ren Hayakawa of Japan, while Xu Jing of China will face Chang Hye-Jin.
Deepika Kumari was thrashed in her quarterfinal by Diananda Choirunisa of Indonesia, to face the wrath of the Indian media after a low-key performance for the Indian recurve team.
The competition continues with the compound finals tomorrow.