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Rivals bow to Koreans again in archery

MYT 10:30:02 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - The more things change in the world of Olympic archery the more they stay the same. South Korea adapted to the London Games' new format, put the new world number ones from India and America in their place and won three gold medals. Same old story.

South Korea's Ki Bo-bae, with the impression of her bow on her nose, poses with her gold medal during the victory ceremony for the women's individual archery event at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Lord's Cricket Ground August 2, 2012. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
South Korea's Ki Bo-bae, with the impression of her bow on her nose, poses with her gold medal during the victory ceremony for the women's individual archery event at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Lord's Cricket Ground August 2, 2012. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

The only shock of the archery event was that South Korea did not sweep all golds - their men stumbled in the team semi-finals and Italy snuck in to snatch the title.

South Korea's women continued their remarkable dominance of the sport by winning their seventh consecutive team gold medal, or all of them since the team event was introduced at the 1988 Games in Seoul.

Korean women have garnered 14 of the 15 team and individual archery gold medals contested since 1984, making them perhaps the greatest Olympic women's team of all time.

Ki Bo-bae is likely to have faced more pressure than any of her predecessors, however, as the 24-year-old only took individual gold after a nerve-wracking single arrow shoot-off against Mexican Aida Roman.

Ki brought gasps from the crowd when she leaked her shot outside the bulls-eye for an eight, leaving Roman needing a nine or 10 to win. The Mexican loosed her arrow to the target 70 meters away, also landing in the red rings for an eight, but Ki's arrow was adjudged closer to the centre and the Koreans erupted in celebration.

"Actually I didn't see Aida's arrow because I was praying so hard," said Ki.

The Korean men's team broke two 72-arrow world records in the ranking round, but failed to take what would have been their fourth consecutive team title after losing to the United States in the semi-finals, with Italy grabbing a shock gold.

COACHING GURU

Team captain Oh Jin-hyek, saddled with the unfortunate nickname of 'Soft Drink Pig' for his love of Coke, went on to become the first Korean to win the men's individual title with his single arrow shootoff victory over Japan's Takaharu Furukawa.

"This is a turning point in Korea's archery," Korea's head coach Jang Young-sool said of Oh's individual victory, though with their dominance of the team event it is hard to imagine how much better things can get for the Koreans.

South Korean coaching guru Lee Ki-sik has worked wonders with U.S. archery, making him the world's most sought after coach after also improving the Australian team since leaving the mighty Koreans.

But defeat for U.S. world number one Brady Ellison in the second round showed Lee still has some work to do, despite lifting the men's team to top of the world rankings and honing Ellison's natural talent to put him top of the heap too.

Korea's success and that of coach Lee has prompted other countries to try to get some of the archery magic dust by hiring South Korean coaches - even from different sports.

"It's unbelievable," said USA Archery's Dan Rabska. "I won't mention any team names but they are horrific as far as technique is concerned, with no understanding of the biomechanics of archery.

"It was like: 'We need a Korean coach. Hey, there's someone looking for a job from wrestling. Fantastic, we got a Korean coach!"

Rabska said none of those teams had qualified for London.

The World archery federation could not have asked for a better Olympic tournament, with the iconic venue of Lord's cricket ground adding to the sense of occasion. They will hope to recreate the same electric atmosphere at the Sambadrome in Rio in four years' time.

(Editing by Steve Slater)

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