Korea entrusts Olympic tradition to rookie batch of archers

Kang Chae Young during practice at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Only one outcome is acceptable for the Korean recurve women’s archery team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games

The Korean Olympic Committee has reportedly set a clean-sweep target for the squad, issuing a decree last month that it expects to win all five available medals in Japan.

Korean archers have claimed 23 of the 34 golds awarded in the sport since 1984, while the women’s team is unbeaten at the Games, having won eight consecutive golds since the event’s introduction in 1988

With each victory at the Games, the pressure to extend the streak grows stronger. Anything less than a gold medal in Tokyo will be considered a disappointment.

“Yes, we feel the pressure,” said Kang Chae Young, the top archer on the world’s top team. “We try to focus on enjoying the game. This is our first time, so we are just going to enjoy it.”

Kang headlines a trio of young archers who will all be making their Olympic debut in Tokyo. She’s joined at the Games by An San and Jang Minhee.

The nation is currently ranked third in the world, behind Italy and Mexico. But this number is misleading. Korea is ranked outside of the top spot due to inactivity on the international stage, having chosen to forego the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit post-pandemic in favour of preparing for the Olympics at home.

This group is talented but lacks competition practice. It’s a stark contrast from the line-up for Rio, five years ago, which featured reigning individual and team Olympic Champion Ki Bo Bae.

In fact, these Games mark the first since 1996 at which Korea has fielded a completely rookie women’s team.

“We watched the performance of past Olympians and discussed it, trying to become better archers,” said An San. “I feel a little tense, but I’ve tried my best to be ready.”

Despite the caveats, the youth and the debutant nature of the squad at the Games, Korea remains favourite to take its ninth consecutive women’s team gold medal at the Olympics.

There are, however, legitimate contenders for an upset.

Who can beat the Korean women?

We’ve picked three nations that have a chance to dethrone Korea’s recurve women’s team from their top spot on the podium at the Olympics. Read our full preview of the recurve women’s team event.

Chinese Taipei: The bronze medallists from Rio 2016 return to the Games with two-thirds of that line-up that podiumed five years ago. Having upset Korea at the last world championships – and consistently being the squad to run the world-leaders close – this experienced trio from Taipei is the most likely to cause the upset. Fun fact: It’s the same Taipei roster as the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Mexico: Archery has had a spotlight in Mexico since Aida Roman and Mariana Avitia climbed the individual podium at London 2012. The nation has never had a team medal – but this group, featuring Roman alongside Alejandra Valencia and rising-star Ana Vazquez, has something special. They would have to deliver the performances of their lives but the talent is there, without a doubt.

ROC: Having finished second at the last Olympics, impressing until being outclassed by Korea in the final, former World Archery Champion Ksenia Perova returns with two new teammates in Tokyo. There is pedigree.

Competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games starts on 23 July 2021 and the women’s team title will be awarded on 25 July.

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