Korean-born to compete for JapanLONDON - Next to the image of archer Ren Hayakawa under the “athletes” section on the official Web site of the London Olympics is the Japanese flag. But the birthplace of the 24-year-old is listed as Anyang in Korea.
Hayakawa, born Um Hye-ryeon in the Gyeonggi town south of Seoul, became a Japanese citizen in 2007. There have been athletes from around the world who acquire foreign passports to avoid stiff domestic competition for national team berths and have a better shot at going to Olympics.
But Hayakawa insisted representing her adopted home in archery was never her plan when she left Korea.
“I didn’t become a Japanese citizen just so I could be on the national archery team,” she said. “My sister told me to give it a try for the Olympics and I just went to the team trials.”
Hayakawa was a good archer in Korea and performed on a competitive high school team and later an industrial squad. But sometimes being good isn’t nearly enough in a country that has dominated archery internationally for decades.
Athletes and coaches alike have said making the Korean national team, male or female, is just as difficult as winning an Olympic medal. And Hayakawa never made the Korean national team.
In Korea, Hayakawa used to compete with Ki Bo-bae, the ace of this year’s Olympic female team. Ren’s older sister, Nami, is also an archer who represented Japan at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Nami is friends with another member of the Korean female team in London, Choi Hyun-joo.
The younger Hayakawa said she couldn’t afford tuition fees in Korea and went to Japan for the sole purpose of entering college there on an archery scholarship.