Korea names compound team for 2021, cuts Olympic pools to 32

Korea’s national team selection process for 2021 has begun – and in some cases already ended, as the compound categories have been announced.

World number six Kim Jongho leads a compound men’s group that also features experienced international Choi Yonghee for his eighth consecutive season, alongside Yang Jaewon and newcomer Choi Eun-Kyu.

Jongho and Yonghee both shoot for the Hyundai Steel pro team.

The compound women’s squad is dominated by Hyundai Mobis athletes. Winners of the 2017 and 2015 World Archery Championships – Song Yun Soo and Kim Yunhee, respectively – as well as top qualifier So Chaewon all represent the organization. 

Oh Yoohyun, joining the team for the first time after a few seasons on the fringe, completes the lineup.

Trials for the compound team were held over three days, finishing on Monday, at the team's national training centre in Yecheon, located one hour south of Seoul.

The first and second phases of the traditionally gruelling recurve selection process took place as well, ending on Tuesday.

A field of 97 men and 97 women was cut to 64 in each gender after two days and 216 arrows at 70 metres. After an additional two days, the field was then cut in half – leaving just 32 recurve men and 32 recurve women in the race for Korea’s six spots at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The highest-profile casualty came at the second cut.

Reigning Olympic Champion Ku Bonchan, who has not made the team since winning gold at Rio 2016, was eliminated after finishing ranked 53rd. He shot an average of 9.26 points per arrow throughout the trials, which translates to about 667 over the 72-arrow, 70-metre ranking round.

The men’s top-32 cut was 9.40 on arrow average, or about 677.

The women’s top-32 cut was 9.32 on arrow average, or about 671.

It is unclear when the selection process will resume, but it is likely to be in the new year. Traditionally, the third and fourth phases of trials run until the spring, and the recurve team is named only a few weeks before the first Hyundai Archery World Cup stage of the season.

Whenever these selections restart, world number one Kang Chae Young and London 2012 Olympic Champion Oh Jin Hyek will be the leaders.

Kang has never competed in the Olympics, but the Hyundai Mobis athlete currently holds the recurve women’s world record for the ranking round at 692, was runner-up at the 2019 Hyundai World Archery Championships and is the reigning Hyundai Archery World Cup Champion.

Rio 2016 winner Chang Hye Jin, London 2012 gold medallist Ki Bo Bae and Choi Misun – who together won Korea’s eighth consecutive team title at the 2016 Olympics – all remain in the running, as do talented youngsters An San, Lee Eun Gyeong and Ryoo Su Jung.

Ryoo, averaging a field-high 9.53 points per arrow (686) in these selections, was the second recurve archer in history to get a 1400 pin.

The formidable Oh, who has long battled a shoulder injury, does not appear to be wasting his final chance at an Olympics after delaying his own retirement following the postponement to the Games in Tokyo.

Two-time World Archery Champions Kim Woojin and Im Dong Hyun, world number two Lee Woo Seok and 2013 World Archery Champion Lee Seungyun all advanced to the next phase of selections as well.

Yet the top-scoring recurve man so far has been 16-year-old high school student Kim Je Deok.

Kim was the bronze medallist at the 2019 World Archery Youth Championships. The teenager is averaging 9.62 points per arrow – or 693 for the 72-arrow, 70-metre ranking round. (The performance is even more impressive when accounting for his slow start.)

Korea is archery’s leading competitive nation.

The team selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will attempt to outdo the record-setting performance of the Korean squad at the Rio Games, where the country claimed four gold medals for the first time in history.

There are five golds available in Tokyo after the addition of the mixed team event.

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