Victorious S. Korean archers return home

August 16, 2016

INCHEON, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) – The South Korean archery teams made a triumphant return home Tuesday after sweeping the gold medals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

South Korea captured all four archery titles — the individual and team events for men and women — in Rio, an unprecedented feat in Olympic history.

The men’s team and the women’s team breezed through the competition to win gold medals on the first weekend of the Olympics. Last Thursday, Chang Hye-jin claimed the women’s individual gold and on the following day, Ku Bon-chan capped off the historic run by beating Jean-Charles Valladont of France in the final.

As dominant as South Korea has been in Olympic archery — with an all-time leading 23 gold medals — it had never won four gold medals at a single Olympics until the Rio Games.

With gold medals around their necks, the South Korean archers received a warm welcome from hundreds of fans at Incheon International Airport.

“I didn’t feel much about it while I was on the flight, but now I can feel (that I won the gold medal) after seeing this many people at the airport,” said Chang who is also the first South Korean double gold medalist at the Rio Games. “I just want to spend time with my family first.”

Ku said he focused more on the team event when he first arrived in Rio, but he is really happy to win the individual title. He is now the first South Korean man to win two archery gold medals at the Olympics.

“I think my gold medal is made in heaven,” Ku said. “In Rio, I said, ‘It’s a beautiful night’ to express my feelings, but now I want to say, ‘It’s a beautiful Korea.’”

Ki Bo-bae said she is still happy even though she failed to win the individual title. The 28-year-old could have been the first archer to retain the Olympic women’s individual title, but she lost to teammate Chang in the semifinals and settled for the bronze medal.

“Before going to Brazil, I was already feeling the pressure to defend my title,” she said. “But now, I can feel that every difficult moment is gone. I want to go home and eat my mom’s food.”

Kim Woo-jin and Choi Mi-sun, both world No. 1s who failed to win medals in the individual events in Rio, said they will work harder. Kim set a 72-arrow world record in the men’s preliminary stage with 700 points but was eliminated in the round of 32.

“This is not the end but the beginning for me,” Kim said. “I will start preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

Choi was eliminated in the women’s individual quarterfinals. While teammates Chang and Ki were having a press conference after winning their individual medals, the 20-year-old archer was seen practicing alone.

“When I was eliminated in the quarters, many thoughts were going through my head,” she said. “I learned that I have to work harder.”

Lee Seung-yun, who was also eliminated in the quarters in the men’s competition, said he is ready to get married. Before taking the flight back home, the 21-year-old posted on his social network service (SNS) page that he will tie the knot with his girlfriend, who is a year younger than him.

“I didn’t want to announce the news before the Olympics because that could have interrupted our team’s preparations,” he said.

Head coach Moon Hyung-cheol said the South Korean archers will continue to work hard and vowed they will also deliver good performances at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I was really happy when we won the four events, but after a while, I felt nothing,” he said. “Our athletes went through hardships. But we will prepare again (for the next Olympics).”

The Korea Archery Association said archers will go home and take much needed rest before they get together again for the official ceremony that will disband the South Korean team of the Rio Games next week.

The South Korean archers pose for photos after their arrival at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on Aug. 16, 2016. At the Rio Olympics, they swept the gold medals in all four archery events.

The South Korean archers pose for photos after their arrival at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on Aug. 16, 2016. At the Rio Olympics, they swept the gold medals in all four archery events.