Its been said that 50 of the top 100 archers in the world are Korean. In recent years, with the proliferation of Korean coaches active around the world, this ratio has arguably fallen. As Korean techniques and programs are embraced by more and more nations, the gap has perceptively narrowed. But there is still something that the Koreans seem to do better than any other nation and that’s prepare.
For the 2012 Olympics in London, the venue was Lords cricket ground. The test event showed that in the event of a breezy day, there was going to be a wicked crosswind at the targets. However, the archers would be protected from the wind by the bleachers so creating variable air conditions that the arrow would experience on its way to the target. To simulate the conditions, the Korean archers conducted “wind-fighting” archery practice on Jeju Island, a windblown tourist island that gets some of the country’s most extreme weather.
As a final preparation, the six Korean archers selected to compete in London held their final training session at a military base in Wonju, roughly 70 miles east of the capital Seoul. It was configured to give the same atmosphere of Lords to acclimatise the archers in advance. Scoreboards, screens and approximately 700 boisterous soldiers provided an audience .. shouting, chanting and even booing during each shot. Ironically at the actual event you could have heard a pin drop mainly because the audience was mostly made up of archers who are polite and classy sportspersons (even if they were wearing denim that day!).
With the final preparations for the delayed Tokyo games underway, the Koreans have been preparing in the same methodical way. Early March 2021 they held a special team event. A WA 70m head to head competition in their training hall set up to replicate the atmosphere of the finals. It had cameras, an audience, spectator screens, scoreboards, noise, a bi-lingual blaring PA and was conducted exactly as the Olympic event would be even to the point of formal adjudication, introductions and the archers waving to the “crowd” on entry to the arena. As possible medal favourite Kim WooJin said, experiencing it now would allow him “to be more comfortable when shooting at the competition for real.”
This attention to detail in their preparation is probably one of the things that still differentiates Korean archery from the rest of the world. It will be interesting to see if the last 4 years since Rio has allowed the world to catch up to the big dogs of archery or whither the intense Korean preparation and attention to detail will see them through to another haul of Olympic gold.
Video of the Special Team matches can be found at Korea Archery on YouTube