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19 Aug 2004

Galiazzo’s golden arrow

The archery was staged at the ancient Panathinaikos Stadium, which had served as the main venue for the inaugural modern Games back in 1896, which undoubtedly added an extra dimension to the events. Built in 329BC the stadium was also used to provide a dramatic climax for the men's and women's marathons in 2004.

Unawed by the sense of history, it was a teenager from the Republic of Korea, who took centre stage. The 18-year-old Im Dong-hyun scored 687 points from his 72 arrows in the qualifying round of the men’s archery competition, setting a new world record.

However, his world-record form was not set to endure and the youngster later crashed out of contention during the quarter-finals, where he came up against a 41-year-old Japanese school teacher called Hiroshi Yamamoto. Yamamoto was competing in his fifth Olympics, having won a bronze medal 20 years earlier. He had almost given up the sport four years earlier, after failing to win a place in the Japanese team for the 2000 Games in Sydney, but had been cajoled into returning and promptly produced some of his best form in years.

Yamamoto enjoyed a narrow victory in his semi-final, winning a single-arrow shootout against the Australian Tim Ciddihy.

In the final, he was pitched against Italy’s Marco Galiazzo, a man 20 years Yamamoto's junior, who had finished just 49th in the world championships and had to survive a series of tight matches on his way to the final.

The gold medal match was decided by 12 arrows. Yamamoto led by a point after each finalist had fired three, but the Italian showed the calm and resolve under pressure that had become his trademark throughout these Games. He levelled the score, and then took the lead, before holding on for a 111-109 victory.

It was Italy's first ever gold medal in archery. As for Im, having set that world record, he did eventually get a reward for his early form, as the Republic of Korea beat Taiwan in the final of the team competition.

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