Best Olympic Archers of All-Time: #14 Oh Jin Hyek

Each week in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, we’ll be revealing another athlete on our list of the top 15 Olympic archers of all time. This week, it’s…

#14: Oh Jin Hyek

NOC: Korea 

Born: 15 August 1981, Nonsan, South Korea 

Olympic caps: 1 (London 2012)

The Medals

London 2012 Olympic Games
London 2012 Olympic Games

The quote

“Was it for me or for Korea? I tend to think that it was an honorable moment for me and that it gave my country a lot of national prestige. I exist because Korea exists, and it was Korea that sent me to the Olympics. But the gold medal is being kept at my house, though!” - Oh Jin Hyek

The Reason

Korea’s dominance of the Olympic archery world began in the 1980s - which makes it all the more remarkable that, until London 2012, they had never won a men’s individual gold medal. Korean men had come away with silver three times, but never taken the big prize.

That changed in 2012, when a 30 year-old archer by the name of Oh Jin Hyek stepped up and finally took, with his first major tournament victory, what had been eluding the Korean Archery Association for so long.

The Korean men had not dominated in London. In the team competition, despite obliterating the world record in the ranking round, they had fallen to the USA by five points in the semifinals, finally winning bronze.

In the individual competition, Im Dong Hyun had been eliminated in the round of 16 and Kim Bubmin in the quarterfinals. It was left to Oh to carry Korean hopes - but he was shooting strong.

“I think I did myself justice. And surprisingly, not a single useless thought got into my head, and I was able to focus on my own game. I think I had the strongest self-belief of anybody that day,” Oh said.

He swept aside defending champion Viktor Ruban 7-1 in the last eight, before coming through a tough semifinal against China’s Dai Xiaoxiang, where he twice came from behind and then forced a shoot-off. Both men shot a nine in the tiebreaker, but Oh’s was marginally closer.

"I saw his arrow in midflight, and it made a sharp turn towards the left," he said. "It must have been the wind. That's when I thought I was going to win!"

Oh walked out onto the finals field with a look of grim determination for the gold medal match against Takaharu Furukawa of Japan.

“What went through my mind? It was just me, the coach, and the target. Those three things were what I could focus on. I thought that the audiences’ shouting and cheering probably wouldn’t help me,” he said.

Oh shot 9-10-10 in both his first two ends to lead 4-0 after two sets. Despite a tied third set, bringing the match to 5-1, Furukawa’s threat evaporated, and Oh won the fourth, 28-25, to take the precious gold.

It had been an incredible journey for the man from Nonsan, who first made the national side in 2009.

"When I was younger, I imagined being a gold medallist at the Olympics. But as the time went by, my results weren’t good enough to make it to the Olympics. It was a long way to come till this moment. I wanted no regrets. I shot every arrow as if it were my last. I was not expecting this at all. I am very, very surprised. I felt like I was flying out there,” he said.

“If I had lost, it surely would’ve been disappointing, because my dream was to participate, not to win gold. It wasn’t a burden. There weren’t any gold medals attained by Koreans for the individual matches, so I also didn’t have much hope either.”

Oh is well known for his unconventional shooting technique, which suits his particular frame. He explained it in some detail on Archery TV in 2015.

He has remained on the Korean team every year since 2012, taking two World Archery Championship individual silver medals and a host of team golds and World Cup gongs in that time. In 2014 he took individual gold at the Asian Games on home soil in Incheon.

When interviewed earlier in 2016 by Korean TV he considered the possibility of retiring after Rio. 

“I really don’t know when I’ll retire. It could be announced abruptly tomorrow, or I may be able to continue as an athlete for a longer period of time. Right now, the national team qualification tournament is my priority. Since I think of every moment as my last, I’m trying to do everything without regrets,“ he speculated.

“But I’m feeling confident about Rio. Out of 10? I’m giving it nine. Ten is tempting, but I’m leaning more towards nine. The other archers and coaches will fill up the last remaining one!”