Women archers hit 2 bull’s eyesSouth Korean women proved once again that they are the ones to beat in the archery competition.
On a day when Korean archers stood at the shooting line for a medal match, their coach, Seo Oh-seok, didn’t offer any instruction. No words were necessary since the match for the gold medal in the women’s individual archery competition was fought out between two Koreans.
For a moment, during the semifinal round, it looked like the country’s long domination of the sport would come to an end. Yun Mi-jin, a gold medalist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics who was seen as a shoo-in for another gold at Athens, was eliminated by Taiwan’s Yuan Shu-chi 107-105 in the quarterfinal round in a shocking upset. Earlier, Yun had equaled her own Olympic record of 173 points with 18 arrows shot.
Taipei’s Yuan then fell to Britain’s Alison Williamson, who later lost to Lee Sung-jin in the semifinals and eventually took the bronze medal.
At the end of the day, two Koreans, Park Sung-hyun and Lee Sung-jin, fought it out for the gold medal under the sun at Panathinaiko Stadium, repeating a scene that has become somewhat routine at the Olympics. At the Sydney Games, all three medals in the women’s individual competition went to Koreans, who also carried home the women’s team gold medal.
Shooting 12 arrows, Park won the gold-medal match with a score of 110, two points above Lee, in a face-off that lasted 20 minutes. Hitting the bull’s eye with her last arrow, a shot worth the maximum of 10 points, gave her the edge over Lee, who was competing in her first Olympics.
Park’s impressive record suggested that she, too, was a strong contender for the highest prize: She finished second in the individual event at the 2003 world championships, after taking top prize at the 2001 worlds. Shooting 682 points with 72 arrows during the ranking round, Park also broke the record established by Italy’s Natalia Valeeva.
Park’s win gave South Korea its sixth gold medal in the women’s individual archery event since the country clinched its first one at the 1984 Games.
If the South Korean women manage to win the team gold this summer as well, they would have won all but one gold medal in individual and team events since 1984, when archery became an official Olympic sport ― an unheard-of achievement.
Before the team of 10 departed from Korea for Athens, Jang Young-sul, the men’s team coach, told the JoongAng Daily that of the 90 athletes who participated in the qualifying rounds for the Korean Olympic team, even the lowest-scoring individual could rank among the top five in the world.
Armed with such a talent pool, the Korean dynasty in archery may well continue for a long time. But even if it ends right now, history has already been made.
by Brian Lee