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Nation’s ‘Archery Queen’ right on target in competition and life

Apr 22,2015
It is no secret that Korean archery has been the best in the world as many people say national team selection trial is more difficult than wining a gold medal in the Olympics.

While there are many Korea archers who have won in the world stage, Kim Jin-ho is regarded as the first archer who lifted Korean archery to the world-class level. Kim is often dubbed as original archery queen who delivered country’s first gold medal in the international competitions. In fact, she has won 10 gold medals in the World Archery Championships.

Kim, born in Yecheon County, North Gyeongsang, first got into archery when she was 13 as her Yecheon Girls’ Middle School founded archery team in 1974. While Kim was fascinated by arrows striking targets, a senior student who already played for archery team approached to her and asked her to join the team.

In 1977, now freshman of Yecheon Girls’ High School, Kim competed in the National Sports Festival, and despite suffering an injury on her finger, she went on to win the competition and became national team member.

In 1978, Korea Archery Association (KAA) decided to send to national team at Asian Games in Bangkok, where archery was first became the official sport. Despite one shot was recorded as zero points due to violation of time limit, Kim was able to beat Yuriko Goto of Japan by three points after scoring 1,230 points in 144 arrows, becoming first Korean to collect a gold medal in Asian Games. She also collected silver in team competition.

Hyped up good results in Asian Games, the KAA decided to send only women’s team to 1979 World Archery Championships in Berlin where Kim made a history by winning five gold medals in six categories.

Back then in international archery competitions, including the Olympics, were held under rules established by the Federation Internationale de Tir a l’Arc (FITA). A FITA round, which was the standard for tournaments, consisted of six sets of six arrows each at four target distances (30, 50, 60 and 70 meters for women), resulting overall total of 144 arrows.

In Olympic competition and the world championships, two FITA rounds were shot, or a grand total of 288 arrows for each competitor. At the Worlds, Kim finished third in 70 meters, but finished first in rest of target distances and claimed overall individual top finish as well as team event.

“Back then I was too young to realize how big achievement it was to win five categories,” Kim said in an interview with Ilgan Sports in 2009.

But Kim became an international phenomenon with the victory. With world champion title, the high school student returned to Korea as a national hero. She was welcomed with a car parade from the airport to city hall in Seoul as well as in her home town.

“People didn’t know much about archery back then, but they started to pay attention to the sport after my performance at the Worlds,” Kim said.

Her performance at the Worlds put Kim as the top contender for the upcoming Olympics, but then Korea decided not to participate in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, Soviet Union, joining the United States and other countries that boycotted because of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

While missing opportunity to compete in her first Olympics, Kim suffered a slump with shoulder injury following year as the Korea National Sport University (KNSU) student wasn’t able to get a single medal in the 1981 World Archery Championships in Italy.

However, Kim, who is devoted Christian, went to overcome the slump and injury and slowly regained her condition, winning a silver in individual and a gold in team event at the 1982 Asian Games in New Dehli, India.

In the 1983 World Archery Championships in Los Angeles, Kim signaled a revival, winning five of six events again just like she did it four years ago. No one doubted that she will be the winner in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, but apparently, people’s expectation turned out to be a huge pressure for her.

Kim eventually settled for bronze medal in the Olympics, while spotlight moved on to her teammate Seo Hyang-soon, who captured the honor of becoming first Korean archer to win the Olympic gold.

The result was also a big disappointment for Kim who decided to quit the sport and decided to focus on studies at the KNSU.

“I was really mad on myself for not winning the gold medal in the Olympics, but my mother persuaded me to start archery again and reconsider the retirement,” she said.

Following her mother’s request, Kim grabbed the bow again and managed win three golds at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul. While the next Summer Games to be hosted at home, Kim decided to make her final retirement, citing the pressure of national team selection.

“I feel little bit of relief after the Asian Games,” she said. “Now, I don’t have regret of not winning the gold medal in the Olympics.”

In the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, another high school student Kim Soo-nyung followed her step and Korean archery legacy continued. That same year, Kim became married woman, now having a daughter and son.

After her retirement, Kim focused on her studies at the KNSU and became full-time professor in 1995. Same year, Kim’s hometown Yecheon opened an archery stadium named after her.

Kim now focuses on teaching students and fostering young archers. While Korean archery has been successful since her debut, she is also working hard for the sport to be more popular among public.

“I have received a big blessing through archery and it’s time for me to work hard for the Korean archery,” she said. “Veterans and senior archers, including myself, now have to work together to change the system which archery has been a sport that shines only when there is an Olympic.”

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]


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