Korea’s archers keep their eyes on victory

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Korea’s archers keep their eyes on victory


Chang Hye-jin competes in the women’s recurve team event at GBK Archery Field in Jakarta, Indonesia on Saturday. [YONHAP]

The Korean women’s archery team will put aside their disappointing performance in the recurve women’s individual event and try to win the gold in the team event against Taiwan today.

Korea has been the longtime powerhouse in women’s archery, dominating the sport at the Asian Games with a total of 39 gold medals. The country with the second-highest number of gold medals - Japan - has eight.

Chang Hye-jin, a two-time gold medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, will team up with Kang Chae-young and Lee Eun-gyeong in the recurve women’s team final against Taiwan. In Korean archery, where the national team qualifier is often considered more competitive than the international events, Chang has been the most consistent athlete, and has held onto her spot on the national team since the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.

The top ranked recurve archer in the world, Chang entered the Asian Games expecting to take home gold in all of her events - recurve individual, team and mixed team.

Despite the expectations, Chang got off to a slow start and is far from sweeping the tournament. In the individual event, she lost 3-7 in the quarterfinals to Choirunisa Diananda of Indonesia. With Kang losing her semifinal match 4-6 to Zhang Xinyan of China, for the first time in Asian Games history, the recurve women’s individual final did not include a single Korean archer.

Chang hoped to redeem herself in the newly-added mixed events, in which she competed with Lee Woo-seok from the men’s team. As only one team per country is given the chance to compete in the mixed event, only the top finishers from the men’s and women’s national team trials qualified.

Rather than redemption, the mixed team didn’t last long in the competition, losing 1-5 to Mongolia in the quarterfinals.

But Chang’s struggle seemed to be more mental than a lack of skill. While she had the chance to take home three golds at the Games, the pressure of high expectations seems to have led to inconsistencies. During the round of 16 match in the mixed team event, Chang scored 10 points in four of her six shots but in the quarterfinals, her shots kept on missing the bulls eye when the team needed it most.

“Whenever I’m in a difficult situation or have negative thoughts, I keep on telling myself to be thankful,” Chang said last month at the National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong. “I shouldn’t be complaining about competing for the national team because there are other people that can’t be on the team even though they want to. Whenever I’m in a difficult situation, I try to switch that into a positive mindset.”

After struggling with the recurve women’s individual events, the Korean team is determined to win gold together. The recurve team has cruised through the team event from the start, setting new Asian Games record with a team score of 2,038. The team defeated North Korea 6-0 in the quarterfinals and 6-2 against Japan in the semifinals to secure their spot in the finals.

Since archery first appeared in the Asian Games in 1978, Korea has won eight golds in the women’s recurve team event.

The Korean men’s archery team will also compete in the recurve team final against Taiwan today. The men’s team of Kim Woo-jin, Lee Woo-seok and Oh Jin-yek, will be competing for Korea’s ninth gold medal in the recurve men’s team event.

Beginning at the 1982 Asian Games, Korea won eight straight gold medals in the team event but their streak ended at Incheon in 2014, when the team finished with bronze.

Kim Woo-jin and Lee Woo-seok have already won two medals at the Games, as Kim and Lee are in the finals at the men's recurve individual.

BY KIM JI-HAN, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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