The Republic of Korea’s elite archers fired a warning shot to the rest of the world with a remarkable display of dominance as the latest Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 test event came to a close on Thursday.
Some 135 archers from 29 countries around the world lined up at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field from 12 to18 July, and most could look on with only a mix of envy and admiration as the Korean team delivered a lesson in poise, nerve and unparalleled skill, winning all three gold medals on offer over the seven days of competition.
At the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the Republic of Korea’s archers swept the board, winning gold in all four competitions, and Tokyo’s test event provided them with a perfect opportunity to send a reminder of what they’re capable of doing next summer.
This was a slimmed-down dress rehearsal for the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and World Archery with only three competitions – the women’s individual, men’s individual and mixed team event – while next summer’s Games will also include the usual men’s and women’s team events.
The mixed team event will be a new addition to the Olympic programme at Tokyo 2020, and the top seeds this time around Kim Woojin and Jeon Ina showed exactly why the Republic of Korea will start as clear favourites, winning the test event without dropping a single set over their four matches.
In the final, they dropped just three points in 12 arrows against Russian pair Artem Makhnenko and Ksenia Perova. “I think I have gained a lot of experience in this test event in preparation for the Olympics in Tokyo next year,” Kim told World Archery. “There will be many things changed here but the environmental factors will not change. That is why I am here to practise and if I am able to take part next year, this experience will not be wasted. It will be a big help.”
It was a particularly successful week for Kim – a two-time individual world champion (2011 and 2015) and gold medallist in the men’s team event at Rio 2016 – who also picked up a silver medal in the men’s individual.
However, Kim rode his luck in the early stages of the individual competition, almost crashing out in the third round to Australia’s Taylor Worth, and also needing five sets to make it through both his quarter-final and semi-final. In the final he ran out of steam against compatriot Lee Seungyun – Rio 2016 men’s team gold medallist and 2013 individual world champion – who won in straight sets.
Lee was keen to play down the significance of his victory, pointing out that the strength of the Korean team means that despite winning the test event, he’s still not sure of his place in Tokyo.
“There are so many good players in Korea,” he told World Archery. “I won’t do well [at the Olympic Games] if I don’t make the team. It’s good we’ve [the Olympic archery competition] gone from four to five gold medals. We’re expecting to win all five.”
The test event also featured the rise of a new star in women’s archery in the shape of 18-year-old An San who won gold in the women’s individual. An had made her senior individual debut only one week earlier at a World Cup event in Berlin, which she also won, but produced a nerveless display at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field to defeat Olympic individual champion Chang Hye Jin on her way to the final. In the gold medal match, she dispatched former world no.1 Deepika Kumari of India comprehensively in straight sets, and could be the player to beat next summer.
“At this moment, I’m not sure to make the national team for the Olympics next year. But I’m happy to have shot here,” An told World Archery. “I think there is some pressure on the Korean team [for the Games next year]. But I will try hard so I can stand in the same place.”