After a tournament which briefly looked like it was veering dangerously away from the script followed by previous Asiads, the recurve finals finally delivered the hoped-for ‘Golden Sunday’ for the home nation.
After the shock semi-final defeat for the Korean men’s team on Friday – the first at an Asian Games for over thirty years – they had to suffer the relative indignity of fighting it out with Japan for the bronze medal, which they won 5 sets to 3. Japan came back in the third end to tie the score, but sent down two eights in the final end to hand the Korean men the bronze and a sliver of self-esteem.
The gold medal match was contested between China and Malaysia, who had unexpectedly beaten Japan to book their place here. It was a one-sided affair that saw the Chinese men comprehensively outscore their opponents to take gold.
“We hadn’t expected that we could win so fast,” said Yong Zhiwei. “But we believed in ourselves. We had faith in the team. Mu Yong, the manager of the Chinese archery team, said: “They showed no fear at all.”
In the women’s team event, Japan beat India for the bronze medal, capping a miserable week for India’s recurves who left the competition empty-handed after their compound teammates grabbed four medals yesterday and sent India into the overall top ten.
In the gold match, the pressure was weighing heavy on the Korean ladies to beat China – particularly after their last two finals ended in defeat, and the Chinese team had beaten them in competition as recently as June. In the end, they needn’t have worried. After three tense sets that saw the Chinese archers’ form fall away – they hit the ten ring just twice – the crowd roared and Korea had their precious recurve gold, with an emotional team bursting into tears afterwards. Lee Tuk-Young said afterwards: “There’s been some incredibly hard work over the last ten months, but I’m really glad to be part of history.” She also credited ‘elder sister’ Joo Hyun-Jung, who was unable to take part in the team event due to injury, as part of the team’s success “because our hearts beat as one”, in an elegant illustration of the particularly deep emotional bond between KAA teams.
The individual competition brought another Chinese medal, as Xu Jing took the bronze medal match from Japan’s Ren Hayakawa 7-3 after being 3-1 down after two ends. In the men’s bronze match, Kuo Cheng Wei of Chinese Taipei beat Hideki Kikuchi 6-2 to finish a relatively disappointing meet for Japan’s highly consistent recurvers, who would definitely have hoped for more. Japan, along with China, were also the only major archery nations not to send a compound squad.
The women’s individual field inevitably came down to the two Koreans in-form this year, and Jung Dasomi thumped Chang Hye-Jin 7-1 in a gold medal match that saw her miss the middle just twice in twelve arrows. She finished the job with a 10-10-10 end.
The men’s gold match saw the familiar hulking frame of Oh Jin-Hyek, the Olympic champion, take on the young Chinese athlete – and apparently, ‘ladies man‘ – Yong Zhiwei, who had already won a gold medal that morning in the team event. The crowd went silent as Yong raced out to a 4-0 lead, before his form slipped and Oh reeled off three straight sets to take the title, looking relieved after a final end that saw both archers wobble. Reading from the standard Korean sporting script, he said afterwards: “I concentrated on my last shot, but I scored eight. I was fortunate to win a gold medal and I will continue to do well.”
In the end, there weren’t a great many surprises. Most of the medals went to the usual powerhouse nations, with some strong runs from Malaysia and the Philippines – plus a special mention to the quarter-final performance of men’s recurver Pak Yong-Won of the DPRK. The athletes delivered. For the home nation, the KAA pressure cooker had done its job and delivered the expected medals in their most important tournament apart from the Olympics. It remains to be seen if the KAA will continue to develop and maintain a high-level compound squad, and if the men’s performances will match the women’s in either discipline. The Asian nations have proved spectacularly strong on the international archery circuit this year, and on this outing, that looks set to continue for a long time to come.
Watch the Korea v India women’s team semifinal here.
Thanks to the dozens of news sources in many languages that helped me pull together these reports.