Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: The match-ups we’d like to see
We all have our own favourite Olympic head-to-head battles, and they are often the moment that defines the Games for a sport.
With the biggest prizes on the line, how archers react to the pressure, the responsibility and the atmosphere is what separates the champions from the rest of the field.
So what will we get in Tokyo? We decided to pick the match-ups we’d most like to see in Yumenoshima Park.
We’ve ranked the top five – and, at the very bottom of the page, listed the most tantalising line-ups for the three team finals.
A re-run of a classic match from the 2019 Hyundai Archery World Championships in s’-Hertogenbosch, where Lei pushed the world number one and hot favourite for the title, Kang Chae Young, to a shoot-off, held her nerve, and won.
They had a rematch that same year at the Asian Archery Championships, where Kang won, 7-1, and went on to win the individual title. But an in-form Lei has a kind of unstoppable force. If anyone could cause the upset, it would probably be her. It’s certainly going to take someone of her calibre to stop Kang from taking gold in Tokyo.
The London 2012 recurve men’s gold final between Oh Jin Hyek and Takaharu Furukawa saw two of the most experienced athletes from their respective countries of Korea and Japan take the stage to battle it out for the biggest prize. It was already Furukawa’s third Olympic Games, and Oh had been a professional archer for over a decade. Oh, of course, became the men’s champion, but a couple of years later, a rematch in Antalya saw Furukawa beat Oh, 6-4.
The last time the pair faced off was in Shanghai in 2017, and Oh won that time, 6-2. Both men are in their late 30s and possibly (likely?) attending their last Olympics. It would be incredible to see them take each other on one last time.
Two star archers in form; with Kang topping this year’s Korean trials and Kumari tearing up the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit, with two individual golds from two tournaments, as well as leading teams to victory in her most successful season yet.
The pair have faced each other once before, in Berlin in 2017, where Kang won. But she would be looking at a different Kumari this year, an archer with match fitness that seems to have learned how to shut down opponents and close out the wins. This could be the most exciting women’s final we’ve ever seen.
2. Mete Gazoz v Kim Je Deok
Possibly the two best young archers in the world? Twenty-two-year-old Mete, despite some notoriously uneven matchplay results, has taken some huge scalps in competition in the last few years (including Brady Ellison and Lee Woo Seok) and this year proved himself capable of beating anyone in Europe.
Seeing him go up against the youngest, rawest Korean talent, Kim Je Deok, who placed third at the World Archery Youth Championships in 2019 aged just 15, and topped the pile at his first senior competition in Gwangju this year, would be quite the bout from two archers who might be seeing many more Olympics to come.
1. Brady Ellison v Kim Woojin
Two men who both crave an Olympic individual title – and arguably, no two men deserve it more. Both have an astonishing list of world records and titles, and plenty of history too. The pair have met on the field six times since the world championships in 2011, and each time Woojin has come away with the win. (Twice in a tiebreak.) In 2018, Brady described Woojin as “the best archer there has ever been”.
But in 2021, for the first time, Kim would not be the favourite for the match. The last couple of years have seen Brady dominating the world and Kim recording several high-profile head-to-head defeats. This might be the gold medal match of our dreams.
Recurve mixed team: India v Mexico
One of the more intriguing mixed team match-ups from two countries that have hit form this year. Mexico is ranked as the number three pair in the world, whereas India is ranked seventh. We still don’t know exactly who will make up these teams in Tokyo yet, although Deepika Kumari will be the woman for India and Luis Alvarez will be the man for Mexico. Kumari and husband Atanu Das won gold at this year’s Hyundai Archery World Cup stage in Paris, while Mexico took the title in Guatemala with Ana Vazquez and Angel Alvarado (incidentally, beating India along the way.) A match of equals we’d like to see at the business end of the day in Tokyo.
Recurve women’s team: Chinese Taipei v Korea
This was the match at the last world championships that really shocked the archery world. Chinese Taipei beat Korea to the world title. They’d beaten them once before in a major event – at the Universiade in 2015 – but in many, many subsequent matches, Korea had taken the win, even if it was often very close. Chinese Taipei looked sharp and organised that day, and they certainly retain the capability to take gold from Korea again. A rematch between the two, particularly in an Olympic final, would test the nerves of the Korean team – going for their ninth straight Olympic team gold – to the absolute limit.
Recurve men’s team: USA v China
The USA has (finally) delivered a recurve men’s team that, once again, looks well capable of challenging for the podium for a third Olympics in a row. Their new Chinese counterparts we haven’t seen compete yet, but on previous evidence, they will certainly be competitive. Back at Rio 2016, the USA men, then featuring Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski and Zach Garrett, beat China in a straight-set quarterfinal. But three years later, China took the world team title in Den Bosch – if those same goods are on offer in Tokyo, the squad could be a monster.
Competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games starts with qualifying on 23 July 2021.