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Korean Beats Korean in Archery
By Hwang Min-kook
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Men's archery team competition was held at the Lord's Cricket Ground on July 29. The four teams in the semi-final included Korea, the United States, Mexico and Italy. The four had one thing in common: a Korean coach. In this race headed by four Korean coaches, their native country was beaten by the U.S. but beat Mexico in turn at the bronze medal match.

At the moment, "Korean archery" is being confined by the "Koreans." In this sport, the country has held the strongest status in the world for more than two decades. But the Korean coaches who continued to go overseas to teach just started to have adverse effects on their native team's performance.

The upside is that the level of world archery is showing a general upward curve; the downside is that Korea might be losing its firm ground held in international competitions to other countries -- something that may be equal to a crisis from Korea's perspective.

Of course, we cannot prevent our coaches from going to another country: numerous and outstanding as they are, not all of them can take charge of a team as they want in their homeland.

As the U.S. and Italian National Teams meet in the final for Men's Archery Team Competition at the London 2012 Olympics, their two coaches Seok Dong-eun (left) and Lee Ki-sik are going past by each other. | London, The Olympic Photo Group

A person from the Korea Archery Association (KAA) said, "Inevitably, there are not enough good teams and good terms and conditions [in Korea] that can satisfy good coaches. In many cases, people often go to different countries to do business at the beginning but then change their careers to become an archery coach in their host country."

These people went overseas and applied the Spartan training as conducted in Korea to the individual country's field of archery, which would usually lack proper killer instincts. They taught the right position from the earliest stage in training and boosted archers' skills through hash exercise.

And then they have dissipated the vague "phobia" felt about Korea by the world in this sport. The two main pillars that support victory in the game of archery are basic position and mental attitude.

The Korean knowhow that can foster these two has been taught to the athletes all over the world, the effect of which is demonstrated by the great results at the current Olympic Games.

The head of Italian Men's Archery Team at the London Olympics is Seok Dong-eun, 57. He is a son to a former KAA advisor, the deceased Seok Bong-geun, who was named as the "mother of Korean archery."

In 1973, the junior Seok set a new Korean record as many as five times. He then became a coach for the Seoul Metropolitan Government Team in the early 1980s, performing winning games in many events including the National Games.

In 1991, Seok moved to Italy to be engaged in machinery trade but he ended up taking charge of the Team Italy. Seok has been reaping great results with the team ever since: a silver medal by men's archery team at the Beijing Olympics four years ago; a gold by an individual archer at the 2004 Athens Olympics -- all the Olympic medals won by Italy in this sport have been his work.

Coach Lee Ki-sik of the U.S. used to lead the Korean national team in the 1990s. His influence in the current team is so great that all the athletes, when asked the drive behind the advancement of the U.S. archery, said, "Coach Lee."

Brady Ellison, the star U.S. archer in international competitions, has swept all the gold medals in the four world cups and the final this season. Naturally, he is one of the strong gold medal hopefuls at the London Olympics. Out of 40 teams competing in archery in London, 11 have a Korean coach.

A KAA person said, "In the past, the mere sight of the Korean national flag would intimidate the archers from around the world before the actual game even started. But now they seem to believe that it is worth a challenge. For Korean archery to maintain its top position in the world, we need to find and develop ways to improve our game skills to another level."

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