Korean archers off target ahead of Beijing
Jul 08: Individual ranking slides and the evolving strength of its opponents ahead of Beijing could mark the beginning of the end for South Korea's Olympic archery dynasty.
Korea has won 14 of 22 archery Gold medals on offer since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, with the women winning 11 of those Olympic titles. Korean men have taken three team golds, although they have yet to win an individual title.
While the Koreans are expected to take both team titles, the individual golds may elude them in Beijing.
"I think we are half a notch ahead," said South Korea's most successful Olympic archer Kim Soo-nyung, who won four golds between 1988 and 2000. "In the days when I was competing, we used to be a full notch ahead. Other countries have come a long way because many Koreans are coaching other national teams."
Hopes are high Australia could claim a third consecutive Olympic medal - Australia has won archery medals at the past two Olympics - Simon Fairweather, Gold medallist at Sydney 2000 and Tim Cuddihy, Bronze medallist at Athens 2004. However former Australian Olympic coach, Ki Sik Lee who had a large hand in Australia's Olympic success, was snared by the USA and is now the US head coach.
Following Ki Sik Lee's move to the USA, Australia appointed another Korean as head coach, former champion archer, Kyo Moon Oh. As well, a member of Australia's 2008 Olympic team, is 25 year old Sky Kim, 2004 Korean national titleholder who surprisingly was not selected by Korea for the Athens Olympics and moved to Australia in January 2005 to be coached by Ki-Sik Lee at the Australian Institute of Sport and is now an Australian citizen. Kim is believed to be Australia's best hope of a medal in Beijing.
South Korea captured the men's and women's team golds last month at the fourth stage of the World Cup in France, but the women were pushed hard by Italy, led by world champion Natalia Valeeva. Valeeva, competing in her fifth Olympics, is a naturalised Italian who has represented three different countries at the Games. In 1992 she won team bronze with the Unified Team (made up of former Soviet Union countries) and an individual bronze, competed for Moldova four years later and was on the Italian team in 2000 and 2004.
She will have to beat two Korean archers at the top of their game - Park Sung-hyun and Yoon Ok-hee - if she is to have any chance of gold in Beijing. Park, 25, won two golds in Athens and holds four world records while Yoon will get her first taste of Olympic action in Beijing. The 23-year-old is unlikely to be overawed by the occasion after setting a 12-arrow world record in Turkey in May.
On the men's side, Athens gold medallist, Marco Galiazzo has fallen to 25th in the world rankings.
South Korea's world champion, Im Dong-hyun has the best chance to end their individual title drought but will face stiff competition from Ukraine's Viktor Ruban, who won the men's title in France.