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.
SEOUL: Newsis. Ki Bo Bae: “I’m shooting 450 arrows day preparing for the Rio Olympics. But right now, the national selection tournament is more nerve-jangling than Rio.”
During an interview that took place this 22nd December at Korea National Training Center Archery Field, ‘Empress of Archery’ Ki Bo Bae (27 years old, Gwangju City Hall), a double gold medalist of archery at the 2012 London Olympics and Gwangju Summer Universiade, had this to say:
“The Brazil Olympics is due for next year, but the national selection tournament is first in line. I’m trying my best to cope with the anxiety I get from thinking about all of the talented archers that I will be competing against in that tournament.”
“To take part in this competition is extremely tough. It lasts for 6 to 7 days, so the score of the day is entirely dependent on my condition. I can never lose my focus and tension, and I’m nervous at every moment.”
“When I’m in the national team, I have the tendency to put all of my concentration on the score, leading me to overlook many other aspects of being an athlete: but I fixed all those aspects when I was eliminated from the national team (in 2014)”, stated Ki.
“After leaving the national team, I felt rather refreshed. You’re like a hamster running on its wheel: the Olympic village life kept repeating on an ongoing cycle, from early morning to night. It was very exhausting, so life outside of training was free as free could be. These things actually were good to release all of my energy, and I had a great time.”
Ki mentioned, “For this year, there were many, many shoot-offs in the national tournament. In preparation for this, I also had to work on my shoot-offs.”
The set rule is changing for the team match, with Rio marking its first Olympic start. Due to many matches ending in a draw, a shoot-off in which results an overtime match will be very important. When each player shoots an arrow and a tie is given as the score, the archer who shoots closer to the centre takes the win. Through training simulation, the national team is practicing concentration – and in the complicated selection process procedure around 8% of the total final score will be based on shoot-off performance.
“The Olympics that come every four years may not last long, but it’s not like that for the players. It’s where I’m playing as a national representative, therefore making it a place I want to achieve everything I couldn’t (elsewhere).”
Continuing, Ki said, “In time for winter, I’m spending a lot of time on weight training and fitness-orientated training. With the help of psychological counselling, I’ve also been trying to deal with the pressure increasing as the match approaches.”
When we asked about the struggles of having to train in the bitterly cold weather, Ki replied, “We train indoors where a hole is punctured through a window covered in plastic, which means it’s not cold enough for your hands to freeze up. The environment is organized so that the archers train well, so practicing is pain-free.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: it’s not pain-free for everyone)
Considering that this is Ki’s second Olympic experience, we questioned whether she’s willing to make more appearances in any future competitions. With strong determination, Ki stated firmly: “After Rio comes Tokyo. I want to make it to the Tokyo Olympics.”
At least reading the press, there seems to be a particularly brutal, tough-it-out approach to winter training among Korean Olympic athletes, with temperatures in Seoul only a few degrees above zero. Plus if I have parsed this right, the whole squad are being sent up a freezing mountain again for New Year’s Day – just like last year.
Via this news piece from Newsis. Thanks to Jessica Cho.
So I went to Copenhagen. I wasn’t going to miss that. It’s a beautiful city.
The camera worked. World Archery were kind enough to let me in with the real photographers. I got some shots I really liked, and some I thought would have been great if only I had four-grand’s worth of full-frame camera and glass, and knew just a little bit more about what I was doing. Still, onwards and upwards. I was in the right place for this sequence, anyway. I also got to see the Holmegaard bow, the oldest extant bow in existence, about which more will follow at a later date.
I was originally intending to make a podcast based around the world championships, but after a lengthy parade of technical disasters, I’ve decided not to. The Zoom H2n recorder I bought sounded good and worked pretty well until it didn’t, which was at every crucial opportunity: refusing to save files, batteries draining off despite a claimed 20hr battery life, and featuring terrible handling noise for a hand-held object. (I’m sending it back). A lot of interviews I recorded on the field were marred by too-loud background music, a planned meeting at the museum had to be abandoned after the curator was unavailable, athletes I was hoping to get some words out of stormed off in a fury… on it went. Some of it was my fault, some of it was bad luck, some of it was just dumb and frustrating. I also could only be in Copenhagen for the last four days of the worlds, and I realised a bit too late that to do a really proper job I would need to be there the whole week.
I have always tried to produce (or select) the absolute best content that I can for this blog, and after getting home and reviewing all the audio from the weekend I decided it just wasn’t good enough to do something with. This was despite the American archer Ariel Gibilaro going the absolute extra mile and making a handful of on-the-road recordings for me in the weeks leading up to the championships. She took the time, and I’m annoyed that I can’t follow through with it for her. I will have another try at this next year once I’ve got some more practice with live audio in, and hopefully I can incorporate some of the material that did work into something else.
Back to the sport: the finals weekend stayed dry and bright after some seriously apocalyptic weather earlier in the week, and recurve Sunday brought an almost unparalleled display of Korean dominance. During the week the great white sharks had had to fight some serious battles, but on the big day no-one seemed to be able to bring a game to them, and Sunday did lack a bit of drama compared to the much-harder-to-call compound finals on Saturday. Kim Woojin joined the elite list of double world champions, and didn’t seem all that bothered. But no-one begrudged Ki Bo Bae fighting off the visible stress and nerves to complete what must be the archery equivalent of a career grand slam. She didn’t give a perfect performance, but she gave a fighting one, and it was enough. Afterwards, she said she was just about managing not to cry. That changed when she got to the podium.
There was an ironic moment after the ladies team matches, when the Korean ladies and their coaches sat down in a row of empty seats in the athletes section of the crowd and got insistently moved on by a officious volunteer because “these seats are reserved for VIPs”. :-/
USA men, who lost to a clinical Chinese Taipei.
An incredibly casual KOR men’s team, who didn’t seem all that bothered about becoming world champions.
Kim Woojin in quizzical mood (from earlier in the week). I have about six shots of him pulling this same expression.
After the team events, I took some photographs from the cloisters at the warm-up range behind Christiansborg Palace shortly before the individual finals. This turned out to be a good idea: I could get shots from a great angle and slightly above the shooting line, the afternoon light was starting to look good, and it was all business. No one spoke, just the sound of arrows being launched. You could sense the tension in the faces, the sense of importance, the fear.
Ki Bo Bae
Ki Bo Bae
Ki Bo Bae
Ki Bo Bae… finally.
Venezuelan fans giving it some for their man Elias Malave.
Bye bye, Copenhagen. You were great.
See the rest of my pictures from Copenhagen 2015 here and here.
Thanks to Chris Wells, and a ridiculously long list of charming people I finally got to meet. Thank you!
GWANGJU, KOREA: As with last year’s Asian Games, the prospect of a near-guaranteed medal avalanche on home turf meant that the organisers and the KAA threw every resource at this competition, building a brand new oversize stadium. The home squad didn’t disappoint in the ranking and knockout rounds, and made almost every final in both recurve and compound.
On compound finals day, Korea delivered in spades, taking four of the six golds on offer. Kim Jongho became Korea’s first Universiade triple gold medallist. In the women’s individual gold match, Toja Cerne nearly denied Song Yun Soo in a tight shootoff, but came up a few millimetres short. Russia denied the USA women top honours in a minor upset.
On a sold-out recurve day, the ever-lurking threat of Chinese Taipei was the only major challenge to the great white sharks. The men’s team unfortunately threw down too many eights to do any serious damage to the Koreans, with Lee Seungyun shooting completely clean with six tens – afterwards, he laconically stated: “I think being the last shooter brought out the best in me.” Lee followed up by burying teammate Ku Bonchan 6-0 in the men’s individual final to cap a spectacular 2015 return to form.
However, Chinese Taipei took unexpected revenge in the women’s team final, with a strong squad anchored by Tan Ya-Ting, a multiple World Cup medallist who finished above the Korean women at the top of the ranking round in Antalya this year. The women in blue took the opening set after Kang “The Destroyer” Chae-Young and Choi Misun both sent down eights. Choi leaked a seven in the third set to make it 4-2. Despite Ki Bo Bae finding a fourth ten, they split the points in the last to give Chinese Taipei the victory.
In the individual matches, Maja Jager squeaked past Mei Chen-Hsiung in a shootoff for the women’s bronze. Her second podium finish in two major events (she took silver at Baku 2015) bodes well for a serious defence of her title at the upcoming world championships. For the gold, Ki Bo Bae and Choi Misun contested their third major podium match of the year in a high-quality final that saw every arrow in five sets hit the yellow, with a perfect end from each archer. Despite Choi drilling a staggering seven tens in a row, it went down to a shootoff. Ki Bo Bae edged it out, taking a 6-5 victory to a roaring crowd and doing her bit to leave the home nation sitting proudly at the top of the medal table.
The hardest archery tournament in the world. The Korea Archery Association have finished their yearly recurve selection tournament in Donghae City, a brutal week involving six 70m rounds and three days of head to head shooting – and apparently in miserably cold and rainy conditions, too. The top eight, in order, in each gender are:
1. Kim Woojin (2011 world champion), who absolutely dominated the men’s division.
2. Lee Woo Seok (2014 Youth Olympics champion)
3. Shin Jae Hun (promising Korean cadet in 2008, fallen off the international radar for a few years)
8. Park Mi Kyung (last seen on the international stage in 2003!)
Archers who didn’t make the cut include veterans Yun Ok Hee and Joo Hyun Jung (who has apparently retired), and perhaps most surprisingly, Jung Dasomi, last year’s Asian Games individual champion. There are further warmup tournaments next month which narrow down the eight to a front-line four that will likely contest the big events.
The biggest story of all is the triumphant return of Ki Bo Bae, after failing to make the 2014 squad due to a shoulder injury. She had maintained considerable form, managing to shoot a 1391 FITA last year for her pro team – even though a TV news piece at the end of last year hinted she might be retiring from international archery. Also, Im Dong Hyun, who was slightly in the wilderness in 2014, has achieved a truly staggering 13th consecutive selection for the national team.
Lee Woo Seok. Photo: Xinhua
It’s an interesting mix of familiar faces, veterans and youngsters; the real ones to watch might be the young wunderkindsChoi Mi Seon, who was leading the ranking round for two days,and Youth Olympic champion Lee Woo Seok (who, rumour has it, scored 710 for a 70m round earlier this year). If they deliver this season, who would actually bet against an Olympic medal next year?
I thought I’d seen every dumb thing that longtime TIC favourite Ki Bo Bae had done (or been coerced to do) in the name of sporting publicity. I was wrong. As an Olympic star, she’s one of the faces of the Gwanju Universiade this year, and a little while ago, she had to do this:
But back to archery. She managed to maintain form last year despite being sidelined from Korean national duties (apparently due to a shoulder injury), and has even been filmed recently giving away training, um, ‘secrets‘. Hopefully she’ll be in form enough to be back on the recurve front lines again in 2015. Or failing that: more dancing, I guess? 😉
Ki Bo Bae watch (slight return)… promoting Samsung ultra high definition monitors, with some other sharp-eyed types: pistol shooters, gamers, and whatever that guy in the clogs does. A gigantic multi-national firm using an archer to promote its products? Wow.
It’s a sad day for The Infinite Curve when Ki Bo Bae, reigning Olympic champion, and number two in the world, hasn’t made it onto the Korean squad for this year, after failing to make the top eight during the selection shoot this week. Perhaps even more surprising, Yun Ok Hee, last year’s World Cup champion and world number one failed to make the top eight too. This means neither is likely to shoot in the upcoming World Cup events or the Asian Games this summer. The top eight in women’s recurve included some better known names like Joo Hyun-Jung and Chang Hye-Jin, and the men’s list was pretty familiar. But there’s a big Ki Bo Bae shaped hole in the calendar this year.
It’s always difficult trying to pull information in English off the internet about Korean archers. I don’t think any of us who aren’t in the system have the faintest idea what it takes to get into, let alone stay in the Korean national team – it’s frequently described as ‘harder than winning the Olympics’.
Even via the joys of Korean -> English machine translation, it’s pretty brutal. “Aces are eliminated, the Association recommends always talk [when] the national team players are out. Exceptions, but when you start putting it into a precedent. Principles as the existing players to get the stimulus, can be daunting to new players. Yun Ok Hee, and Ki Bo Bae also a star through such a process.” Ouch.
The fact that the Korean sports press are asking these questions seems to suggest that the archery public are going to miss Ki and Yun, and there is a perception that the KAA should find a way to get them onto the team. It certainly would be a blow to the Asian Games to run a competition without two reigning champions in the ‘majors’. There is, however, a lot to be said for brutal transparency in sporting selection, given the opaque nature of the procedures employed by some archery NGBs and several other sports on a similar ‘level’ as archery e.g. this pre-London 2012 row over taekwondo.