Top 3: The best archer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?
The archery events in Tokyo finished on 31 July, when Mete Gazoz won the men’s individual title, collecting Turkey’s first-ever medal in Olympic archery competition in the process, one day after An San concluded her epic run in Japan.
It’s rarely the presumptive favourite who takes gold at the Games.
Of course, Gazoz and An were among those you thought could win the titles. But neither was ranked top in the world, neither was the world champion and neither was on any kind of winning streak arriving in Japan. They were the best on the field in Yumenoshima Park, though.
Let’s be clear… picking the three most impressive archers at the Olympics was pretty easy. It’s An San, Mete Gazoz and young phenom – and double-gold-medallist – Kim Je Deok who make this list.
The only question is: which order?
3) Kim Je Deok
Who are they? Recurve man from Korea and the youngest archer in Tokyo at 17 years old.
Where did they finish? Double gold medallist in the mixed team and men's team events.
Why are they on this list? Sure, the Korean men’s team in Tokyo boasted two-time world champion Kim Woojin and the London 2012 Olympic Champion Oh Jin Hyek (who said ‘it’s over’ out loud as he delivered the gold-medal-winning arrow), but the squad’s youngest member, Kim Je Deok, was the engine that ran this vehicle to gold.
Not just the top scorer, joint with Oh, but also the energy of the group, screaming towards the opposing team after every shot he put in the 10. And he put a lot of them there. With Korea’s former chief cheerleader Park Chaesoon now the squad’s head coach and acting the dignified part, Je Deok took up the mantle – while performing at an incredible level for a 17-year-old making his Olympic debut.
So where did it go wrong for the top seed in the individual events? Sans teammates in the arena, he lost some of that winning energy, shot a few eights – and got beaten by Florian Unruh. Yun Ok Hee called him the greatest talent out of Korea in 100 years. He’ll be back.
2) Mete Gazoz
Who are they? Recurve man from Turkey.
Where did they finish? Individual Olympic Champion.
Why are they on this list? Five years ago after his Olympic debut in Rio, Mete said he’d be champion in Tokyo. “Until it’s done,” was his maxim, his calling card on social media and the slogan he used to drive himself through the four-year cycle and the extra year wait. In early 2021, the 22-year-old arguably underperformed. He wasn’t winning. It turns out that he was just saving himself.
His matchplay in Tokyo wasn’t perfect. But when it mattered most, to defeat Brady Ellison and Takaharu Furukawa in the quarters and semifinals, respectively, Mete shot fifth-set 30s. He’s got a smile and charisma that comes alive in the arena – and you couldn’t pick a better archer to have won Turkey’s first-ever Olympic archery medal by taking the individual title in Japan.
(Let’s not forget that he and Yasemin Anagoz also finished fourth in the mixed team competition.)
1) An San
Who are they? Recurve woman from Korea.
Where did they finish? Triple gold medallist in the individual, mixed team and team events.
Why are they on this list? She won three gold medals at one Olympics.
She literally delivered the best-ever performance by a single archer at a single Games, not only cresting the podium three times but also breaking the Olympic record for qualifying (as an individual and as a team). And she had to work for it.
An San’s last arrow in Tokyo was a 10 in a tiebreak to win the individual title.
That’s not just a win at these Olympics… it’s a down-the-line statement of intent.
There’s no use making comparisons to the greats just yet. Longevity is, of course, as important as a single great performance. But An San’s got her masterpiece in the bag – and the future for this 20-year-old is mightily exciting.