JO-2020: why South Korea (almost) always aims fair in archery?

A generous automobile giant, bungee jumping or even ruthless selections: the recipe for South Korea’s extraordinary domination of Olympic archery is unorthodox, but very effective.

It is an understatement to say that South Korea reigns over archery before the Tokyo Olympics: South Korean archers have won 23 of the 34 Olympic titles awarded since 1984, including the four of the last Summer Games in Tokyo. Rio five years ago.

Women have won all eight team titles since the category was introduced in Seoul in 1988, men five out of eight.

Theories abound to explain this supremacy, including the absurd one about so-called “sensitive fingers,” a physical characteristic also cited in discussions of the overwhelming prevalence of the quiet morning country in women’s golf.

Their grip on archery is actually more due to the existence of a well-organized and very lucrative system for the 140 active professionals according to the South Korean Archery Federation (KAA ).

Companies and local authorities have more than 30 professional teams and pay generous salaries.

And the grueling Olympic selection process is ruthless: the top three male and female archers are selected after events over several months, regardless of previous successes or rankings.

“There is a saying that if you finish first in South Korea, Olympic gold is within your reach,” Kim Hyung-tak, who coached the national team for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, told AFP. Angeles.

– Hyundai generous patron –

Among the representatives of South Korea in Tokyo, there will be a teenager and three competitors without Olympic experience, while the reigning Olympic champions have not been selected.

In the 1970s, as tensions mounted on the peninsula, the then South Korean military government encouraged boys to practice taekwondo and girls to learn archery.

The former coach of the Surd-Korean archery team on June 22, 2021 in Goesan (AFP / Archives – Jung Yeon-je)

Kim Hyung-tak then trained dozens of school teachers across the country so that they could then teach their students.

Archery had little financial means and poor facilities, recalls the coach, with competitions taking place in dry pools. The results were not up to par, despite a centuries-old tradition in the sport.

Before the Olympics in Seoul, dictator Chun Doo-hwan ordered the country’s big companies to sponsor national sports federations in an attempt to ensure a respectable performance.

The automaker Hyundai was awarded the archery award, a son of its founder becoming president of KAA.

The powerful conglomerate has since injected at least $ 40 million into the sport.

In addition, leading researchers from Hyundai have carried out scientific studies to improve the performance of archers. For KAA vice president Jang Young-sool, the company’s long-term support has been “essential.”

– The noise of the cameras –

Current Hyundai Motor President Euisun Chung has been at the helm of KAA since 2005. In Rio, he provided archers with a personalized coach equipped with beds, yoga mats and showers, as well as cars at the top. bulletproof for their safety.

New methods were adopted, ranging from bungee jumping, to control your nerves, to training in a full baseball stadium, to get used to the noise of large crowds.

Before London in 2012, the weather conditions in the British capital were studied and a training location with similar winds and rains was chosen in Namhae on the south coast.

South Korean archers Kim Je-deok (l) and Kim Woo-jin, during the selections, April 23, 2021 in Wonju (AFP / Archives - Jung Yeon-je)
South Korean archers Kim Je-deok (l) and Kim Woo-jin, during the selections, April 23, 2021 in Wonju (AFP / Archives – Jung Yeon-je)

“The weather was very bad in the final,” recalls Jang, who was the head coach at the time, “the Chinese team was confused as our archers competed calmly and ended up winning by just one point” .

This year’s preparation took place in a replica of the Tokyo venue, even replicating the sounds archers will hear there, from the chirping of birds to announcements in Japanese and English.

And the absence of spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic had been anticipated, with television crews simulating camera sounds in an empty enclosure.


Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.

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