Sunset from Main Press Centre, Barra Olympic Park, Rio De Janeiro
So I’ve made it to Rio. Been here less than 24 hours of this writing. I haven’t seen much yet, and there’s a lot to take in – this place is enormous – but with a bit of polish and paint, it’s going to be incredible.
So World Archery has selected the six nations to receive tripartite places for Rio; three men, three women. The Tripartite Commission awards places in 16 sports to nations, often developing or very geographically small countries, who have only sent a small athlete delegation to the last couple of summer Games, so to enhance the Olympics’ universality and make sure smaller nations get a chance to compete on the world stage.
I’m stoked to see that Areneo David, from the landlocked country of Malawi in southern Africa is on the list. David is the best archer developed by the extraordinary ‘Sally’ Park, who shot for Korea at the LA Olympics and has been been an archer, coach, and international judge ever since.
She was seized with missionary zeal a few years ago and decided it was her mission to bring Olympic sport to Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. With sponsorship from a Korean bank , she managed to overcome severe logistical and educational difficulties to develop a series of archers.
Due to the ranking and seeding system, tripartite archers often end up facing top level opposition. In London, the tripartite matches got some of the biggest cheers of all – the British love an underdog. I’m kinda hoping the Brazilian crowds do too.
There’s a general sense that things are going to work. The only black spot this week has been the ongoing row over Olympic golf, with now none of the four top golfers in the world taking part in the competition, mostly claiming it was due to the Zika virus. Unguarded comments by Rory McIlroy seem to have confirmed what a lot of people have suspected, that it might just not be that high up the priority list.
One month to go, and the Korean publicity machine hits fifth gear; the KAA seem to have flung the doors wide open for the media at the Taerung training centre. There was even a special hour-long documentary called ‘Game Of Numbers’ on KBS1, the main broadcaster, on the Olympic team and how it gets picked.
I’ve managed to get hold of a copy, but it hasn’t got any English subtitles (yet). (EDIT: You can watch it here, no English subs though).
The film is kind of slow and meditative, and takes in extensive interviews with squad & coaches, past & present. I wish I understood more Korean. Still, someone gave us a hand with a small bit of it, an over-the-shoulder shot of Ki Bo Bae’s notebook.
You want to know what’s written in Ki Bo Bae’s notebook, don’t you? I bet you do.
1. Prioritise shooting bows (Always prioritise shooting bows over other thoughts)
2. Believe in posture techniques (trust my senses)
3. Positivity (Always think “I’m good at this” and “I can do this”)
* Making a mistake contributes to my image, so a positive routine is a must (Always think about the focus point)
* Results depend on my efforts!
* When the wind blows, aim for no more or less than 9 points
As long as I follow my usual routine, everything will turn out as planned!
Everything will be okay if I do my routine
Picture the way I shoot whilst performing image training
(Never lose trust!)
(Thanks to Jessica Cho)
From Naver News, a video revealing that the Korean team are practicing with full Falco Eye targets and full competition infrastructure on a reproduction of the backdrop in the Sambadrome. Odder than that, there is some “Neuroscience leveraging” brainwave reading action that reminds me of the devices used in this ancient film. The film also appears to show that some squad members are using 3D printed grips on their bows.
There’s a separate film from Naver news that shows even more headset action, a diagram of the expected winds in the Sambadromo, and some other stuff too.
From Yonhap News, a revealing interview with Kim Woojin, who is rapidly turning into the most interesting member of the squad:
“Four years ago, (missing the Olympic team) left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I went through a slump” said Kim, now 24. “At a domestic competition afterward, I finished 55th out of 60 archers. I really doubted whether I could make the national team again. I watched the guys on the Olympic team train so hard, and I was just feeling sorry for myself….. When I tried to analyze the reasons that I missed London, I learned that I was too arrogant and too obsessed with the results. I was also unable to handle pressure.”
“I do want to win the individual title, but more than anything, I want to leave it all out there and come home with no regrets,” she said. “If I can manage to win a medal, then I’d be very delighted and grateful.”
Both interviews use the phrase “leave it all out there”. I suspect I’m going to have to try and find out what the Korean for that actually is. 🙂
A Reuters piece also revealed that the squad (or possibly just Ki Bo Bae) had been sunburnt practicing up a mountain on Jeju Island – the “Hawaii of Korea”. Not just any mountain – Mount Halla (Hallasan), a shield volcano and the highest peak in the country. Crikey!
The Korean teams and the alternates were also practicing in a baseball stadium, with the crowd encouraged to make a lot of noise – although clearly not when it was full. The KAA have been doing this since at least Beijing, and it doubles up as a great pre-Olympic publicity stunt. More here and some short videos here and here(thanks to eljetico)
Japan have picked their three women, one man team for Rio:
Kawanaka and Furukawa return from London 2012, where they took women’s team bronze and men’s individual silver, if you remember. Although I hope they brought their singing voices with them, as their furious-looking former prime minister suggested that athletes who did not sing the national anthem loudly were unworthy of representing Japan.
A slightly oddly-timed and oddly-placed video news piece about Khatuna Lorig, who won’t be competing in Rio after the USA didn’t qualify a full women’s team. You wonder if they’d booked the camera and the truck early expecting to do a pre-Olympic slot, and just went ahead and did it anyway. Weird.
TEAM GB NEWS: Patrick Huston, currently at the Beiter centre in Germany, has put up a new video, this time explaining reversals. Watch it right here!
Patrick and GBR coach Richard Priestman also shared this picture of the personalised number plates they’d bought themselves after Patrick qualified for Rio during the European Championships in May. Yowza!
Patrick also appears on the cover of the current edition of Bow International, where inside you can read my personal account, plus pics, of what I got up to in Shanghai. Lots of insider information, and even some jokes. It’s available in better-stocked newsagents, or you can buy and read it digitally on a phone or tablet too (search for Bow International in your app store).
Finally, over at World Archery, we’ve hit number one on the Greatest Of All Time list. Inevitably, it had to be Kim Soo-Nyung, the all-time medal leader in the modern era, and a lady who managed to get back into the Korean national team after not even touching a bow for six years.
There wasn’t quite enough space to share the full anecdote she mentioned about the last round in 1988, where she mentioned not being distracted by the photographers. She actually cited a well-known Korean folk tale about a calligrapher called Han Seok Bong, which I am going to quote here from this website:
Long ago in a small village far from here, a boy named Han Seok Bong lived with his mother. She sold rice cakes for a living, and their family was poor. Because of their poverty, they could not afford to send Seok Bong to school. He stayed home by himself all day.
Sometimes Seok Bong would amuse himself by writing his letters in the dirt in front of their home. One day, a gentleman happened to pass by and praised the boy’s talent at calligraphy. From that point on, Seok Bong worked hard on writing his letters.
Seok Bong’s mother saw her son’s diligence and skill. She determined to send him to the temple so he could improve his skills by studying with the masters. Seok Bong was happy for the chance to go and learn, but the thought of living away from his mother made him sad.
“The art of writing is more than just talent,” his mother told him. “Practice is essential. You must study and work hard for ten years, and don’t give a second thought about home.”
Three years passed by. Seok Bong worked hard and studied diligently. He determined he had learned all that he could, and decided to leave the temple and return home to his village.
When he reached the mountain near his village he began to run. We he saw the gate to his house he ran even faster. He burst though the gate, and with a loud voice he cried, “Mother!”
His mother was busy cutting rice cakes. She looked up at him and said, “Has it been ten years? Why have you come back so soon?”
“There is nothing left for me to learn at the temple,” he replied. From now on I will take care of you.”
“I don’t want to be taken care of,” his mother replied. “What I want most is for you to become an outstanding young man of character.”
“Let’s see how well you have learned,” she said. “We will have a contest. I will cut my rice cakes, and you write your letters. We will see if you are yet a master.”
They each assembled their materials. Seok Bong began to write, and his mother began to cut her rice cakes.
Then his mother blew out the lamp. The room was pitch black.
After a while, she lit the lantern again. The letters Seok Bong had written in the dark were crooked. Some were big, some were small. However, the rice cakes his mother had cut were each exactly the same size.
Seok Bong gathered his materials, stood up and bowed to his mother.
“I am sorry,” he said. And he returned straightway to the temple.
After seven more years of study, Seok Bong returned home. His mother greeted him with joy.
Han Seok Bong’s skill as a calligrapher became known far and wide, even as far away as the courts of China.
This moral story is usually told to young people about the value of humility, because we never learn all there is to know. But Kim Soo-Nyung was quoting it (if I have this right) from the point of view of the mother; getting on with what you have practiced with total discipline and ignoring other people, whatever they are up to.
TeamGB has confirmed that, as expected, Great Britain will be sending Naomi Folkard and Patrick Huston to Rio, and they got kitted out for the formalwear round along with coach Richard Priestman and biomechanical witch-doctor Olly Logan. Patrick also appeared in a BBC Norn’ Ironed preview piece:
NB: do you live in Korea? Can you tell me if this is gonna have English subs? (I know some KBS programmes do). Do you know how to record TV programmes with soft or hard-coded subtitles? Do you want to be my friend for ever and ever?…
RIO: looks like they’ve finally finished the velodrome. Whoo! And they’ve got fruits. Lots of them! In the unlikely event you’re reading this and still wondering whether to go to Rio and watch the archery or not, it should be noted that tickets are still available for all sessions, starting from a highly reasonable 50 reals (about £10 / $13). Tickets for the Paralympics are wildly cheaper, starting from just 10 reals. Let’s hope the famed last minute ticket buyers get stuck in.
Finally, you should all watch this amazing doc about coach ‘Sally’ Park and her mission to make Olympic archers out of Malawians. I was lucky enough to meet her and her charge David Areneo in Shanghai. Very emotional in places. Well worth your time:
So Antalya happened. In blistering heat of 40°C / 104 F, the Korean team made, and won, every gold medal match. No cracks in the team armour at all, although the individual bronze matches saw some action. There was a sterling performance from Brasil, making the men’s team finals and shooting well but overcome by a seriously impressive USA men’s team. Tan Ya Ting of Chinese Taipei turned heads by beating both Ki Bo Bae and Chang Hye Jin on her way to individual bronze. Choi Misun continued her dominant run and has to be individual favourite in the Sambadrome in six weeks time. The compound finals… weren’t that thrilling, really. Sorry. Well done to the Turkish compound talent finally, deservedly breaking into the medals though.
For a lot of squads, the tournament was almost a sideshow compared to the final Rio qualifier, and it’s hard to take conclusions for the summer that haven’t already been drawn. Germany had a disastrous meet, failing to upgrade individual places to the full team spots their ranking easily suggested should be theirs. Today, they announced they will send Lisa Unruh and Florian Floto to Rio.
As Antalya was the last World Cup of the year – there are only three stages in Olympic years – the line-up for the World Cup final has been finalised. There’s plenty of new entrants as well as familiar faces: Brady Ellison will be back for a record seventh consecutive final.
RIO NEWS. It’s really not been the best week for Rio 2016, with athletes getting robbed and ticket sales still sluggish. Some big name golfers have pulled out citing the Zika virus, although reading around there is a sneaking suspicion that it’s just not that high up the priority list. I personally think golf has no place in the Olympics, TV draw or not. It’s a long way from being the pinnacle of the sport, and that’s what it should be. Hopefully next month will be like London 2012 at the same stage, when the doom-and-gloom fades and the excitement starts building.
It’s looking like Russia’s track and field athletes won’t be in Brazil in August, but there’s even a possibility the entire Russian delegation might get canned. That would affect the archery profoundly; the Russian women’s team would be expected to make the last eight, and their absence would strengthen several other team challenges. Watch this space.
Doing the Kumari roll. THIS PICTURE COPYRIGHT THE INFINITE CURVE 2016 DON’T STEAL IT AND RUIN IT KTHXBAI
Indian archers are never far from their own country’s sports pages, which are noticeable for their flowery, melodramatic language. They are also notable for a cavalier attitude towards copyright issues. This report on Antalya uses one of my photographs – I took it at the finals of the World Cup in Wroclaw last year. Apart from making the quality hideous and stripping off the watermark, they’ve also apparently assigned the copyright to someone else! FB? Facebook? Yeah, cheers guys…
Over on WA, there’s a veh interesting piece from Ludivine about the growth of archery in France. On the list of World’s Greatest Olympic Archers, we are down to number three, and serious greatest-of-all-time territory. The incredible Park Sung Hyun. It felt like a privilege to write it. I’ll leave you with a translated quote I couldn’t fit in, from fellow team member and Korean legend Yun Mi Jin. The question was: Who do you admire most?
“Though we only have 1 year apart, I would pick Park Sung Hyun, the player with two consecutive wins at Athens Olympic Games. Now she is a mom of 3 children and a supervisor in Korea’s work team. I was happy to run for various national tournaments next to such a compatible companion with many things to learn from, and I truly enjoyed all the memories and good scoring she presented to me. Not only me, but many people are particularly fond of her. She is the only player in the world to exceed 1400 points in a single round, and her personality is as amazing as her skills.”
There’s been some amazing action in Antalya this week, the final major tournament before Rio. The main World Cup draw itself didn’t spring too may surprises, but there was a great deal indeed at stake if you had skin in the game in in the final team and individual qualifying tournaments.
The team qualifiers saw many surprises including many strong teams (Germany, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Belarus and the USA women) failing to pick up spots, and a handful of teams finally grabbing what the ranking suggested they deserved. The final final individual knockout this morning saw more tough breaks and some incredible performances, such as Naomi Folkard of Great Britain battling back from 4-0 down to take the match and a spot. Absolutely boss picture by dutchtarget.com above. The competition continues with the usual Compound Saturday tomorrow and strugglesti… sorry, Recurve Sunday the day after that, when Korea are in every gold medal match. It’s looking ominous.
In Rio, the Olympic medal design has been launched with some eco-tastic ribbons, and look pretty damn good, if fairly straightforward. I guess after the recent debacles in Japan people are sticking to the knitting, design wise. The organisers have also finally come up with the most important thing of all: a slogan. The Games tagline is ‘A New World‘. Does the job, right?
I previously reported that the Indian archery team would be staying outside the Olympic Village (as more than one team might be doing). This plan has apparently now been nixed, apparently due to the threat of Zika virus.
The doping ban on Canadian international Jay Lyon has been upheld and he is suspended for two years. He’s not very happy about it, and gave a detailed interview to the Winnipeg Sun. He was already unlikely for Rio, but the Canadian teams failed to win any team berths in Antalya this week and will be sending just one man to Rio (Crispin, I presume).
This weeks greatest Olympian: the only one on the list not still with us: Hubert Van Innis, from an Olympic era when nations basically set up as many of whatever tournaments they fancied. Sounded like quite a guy. The great-great-grandfather of Sarah Prieels, too.
Finally, someone alerted me to this full length (2hr plus) feature about traditional & barebow archery technique called The Push. I haven’t seen all of it, but it seems to be a well produced and well-thought out piece. You can watch The Push right here.
Larry Godfrey (Photo by Dean Alberga/World Archery via Getty Images)
In these weeks leading towards the ‘big dance’ in Rio and increasing coverage for the sport, I am going to try and give some shape to my archery blog / social media ’empire’ (ha!) by doing a proper round up of things once a week, in the manner of Ollie Williams’ much-missed Frontier Sports. The plan is: every Friday at some point. Or more. Enjoy.
The last-ever World Cup stage in Medellin wrapped with Korea unbeaten in recurve finals matches, the first stage win for Brady Ellison since Lausanne 2014, and a clutch of gold medals for Sara Lopez. Full coverage here. The Brady final match, displaying the sort of dominant, steely World Cup confidence Ellison showed in 2010/11, is worth another watch. The Korean recurve machine wasn’t looking entirely bulletproof, but the wall held, and no-one proved capable of giving them a close match on Sunday. Antalya will hopefully be interesting.
So myself and Mlle. Infinite Curve were having a coffee at lunchtime when she nudged me and said ‘Look what’s on the TV!”. Archery actually on the BBC news; Danielle Brown’s win at the AGB National Series followed by a familiar “you gonna do the Olympics then?” question, all on a proper BBC News 24 sports insert. Dani is always all kinds of awesome, and seeing her up there with Wiggo and Andy Murray instead of a mention in a tiny, tiny column at the back of the paper felt… good. Things have changed.
UK elite archery has its UK Sport grant cut from £4.4m to £3.1m ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics after it failed to deliver a medal at London 2012 – a 29.5% decrease. This move was widely anticipated after archery failed to meet the targets (*ahem*) set for it by the Olympic funding commitee. (I wrote about the consequences of the Olympic failure earlier this year.)
This news comes only days after the news of an 133% increase in funding for archery from Sport England, the (different) government body in charge of grassroots funding of sport, which has been widely hailed as great news.
“Some of the sports held up as the biggest crowd-pleasers and legacy drivers during the London Olympics have had their funding cut altogether ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Table tennis, wrestling, handball, basketball and indoor volleyball have had their financial support withdrawn by UK Sport, while beach volleyball will receive just £400,000 over four years to fund the women’s team.
The elite-sport funding agency was forced to defend the tough decisions on minority sports, made under its “no-compromise formula” that targets public money only at genuine medal hopes, at a time when the Olympic legacy is under scrutiny.
“I think people understand that when you host a home Olympics you have to put teams out in every single sport. Bizarre though it sounds to say it now, the rationale is to drive ticket sales,” said the sports minister Hugh Robertson. “When people look at it, they know that is done on a performance basis. There is not a lot of point at this level, funding teams that are not going to qualify for the Olympics.”