It’s a sad day for The Infinite Curve when Ki Bo Bae, reigning Olympic champion, and number two in the world, hasn’t made it onto the Korean squad for this year, after failing to make the top eight during the selection shoot this week. Perhaps even more surprising, Yun Ok Hee, last year’s World Cup champion and world number one failed to make the top eight too. This means neither is likely to shoot in the upcoming World Cup events or the Asian Games this summer. The top eight in women’s recurve included some better known names like Joo Hyun-Jung and Chang Hye-Jin, and the men’s list was pretty familiar. But there’s a big Ki Bo Bae shaped hole in the calendar this year.
It’s always difficult trying to pull information in English off the internet about Korean archers. I don’t think any of us who aren’t in the system have the faintest idea what it takes to get into, let alone stay in the Korean national team – it’s frequently described as ‘harder than winning the Olympics’.
Even via the joys of Korean -> English machine translation, it’s pretty brutal. “Aces are eliminated, the Association recommends always talk [when] the national team players are out. Exceptions, but when you start putting it into a precedent. Principles as the existing players to get the stimulus, can be daunting to new players. Yun Ok Hee, and Ki Bo Bae also a star through such a process.” Ouch.
The fact that the Korean sports press are asking these questions seems to suggest that the archery public are going to miss Ki and Yun, and there is a perception that the KAA should find a way to get them onto the team. It certainly would be a blow to the Asian Games to run a competition without two reigning champions in the ‘majors’. There is, however, a lot to be said for brutal transparency in sporting selection, given the opaque nature of the procedures employed by some archery NGBs and several other sports on a similar ‘level’ as archery e.g. this pre-London 2012 row over taekwondo.