Archer Ki Bo-bae aiming for a historic double
Crowned both individual and team champion at London 2012, Ki Bo-bae is a leading light of South Korean archery. Dominant at the 2015 World Championships, she is intent on winning in Rio yet more gold for her country, a major force in the sport.
Rio 2016 could see Ki Bo-bae become the first archer to retain the Olympic women’s individual title, a possibility that is generating no little expectation in the Republic of Korea. As she prepares for her defence, however, the 28-year-old world champion is trying hard to focus on the job in hand.
“Of course I can’t ignore it completely, but I try to block out the media,” said Ki, speaking from the National Training Centre in Seoul. “If I focus on the team competition like I did in London, my individual performance should come naturally.”
A mixed team world champion in 2011, Ki outshot the competition with ease in London to land Olympic gold in both the team and individual events. She maintained her fine form at the 2013 World Championships in Belek (TUR), where she again won gold in the mixed team event and also landed the team title.
Her outstanding results have made her the face of archery in the Republic of Korea. The country has dominated the sport since its return to the Olympic programme in 1972, winning 34 medals, 19 of them golds. Not for the first time, they will head to Brazil as overwhelming favourites to win yet more titles.
The Republic of Korea is fanatical about its archery, however, and competition for places is stiff. Ki found that out to her cost in 2014, when a poor performance in the national trials for the Asian Games led to her missing out on selection. “I think I lost it mentally and relaxed too much,” acknowledged Ki, who commentated on the continental competition for national TV.
She was back on top form the following year, winning the individual and mixed team titles at the World Championships in Copenhagen (DEN).
Currently ranked number three in the world, she will be the most experienced member of the Republic of Korea women’s team in Brazil and the only one with Olympic experience. “I was the youngest in London so I could follow in the footsteps of my more experienced team-mates but now I feel the pressure of guiding my team,” she said.
That lack of Olympic exposure should not, however, present much of an obstacle to a talented team that includes 20-year-old world No1 Choi Misun.“People say that in Korea it’s more difficult to be selected than to win an Olympic medal,” added Ki. “Only those who survive that will be capable of overcoming the difficulties and challenges you face at the big competitions.”