The five best 72-arrow qualification rounds in Olympic history

Kim Woojin celebrates securing the top seed at the Olympic Games in 2016.

Today marks exactly 72 days until the archery competitions begin at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on 23 July 2021.

That number – 72 – is significant in the sport of archery.

It’s the exact amount of arrows that are shot during the qualification round, which seeds the athletes for the head-to-head eliminations.

To mark the date, we’re looking back at the five best qualification rounds in Olympic history – or at least its history since 1996, which is when the 72-arrow 70-metre format was introduced. 

(We considered going back further, but prior Olympics used variations on the 1440 Round – then called the FITA – or Grand FITA, which all consisted of more than 72 arrows.)

Scroll down to see who made the list.

Michele Frangilli shoots at the World Archery Championships in 2003.

5. Michele Frangilli

Score: 684

Olympics: Atlanta 1996

Why it makes the list: At the time, it was an Olympic and world record for the 20-year-old Frangilli. Michele would duck out in the quarterfinals of the Games, still his best individual showing at the Olympics in four appearances to date. But it was an indicator of the success he would have later, like the world champion title in 2003 and the Olympic team gold, 16 years later, in 2012.

4. Lina Herasimenko

Score: 673

Olympics: Atlanta 1996

Why it makes the list: Because, somehow, this is still the Olympic record. Lina Herasymenko topped qualification the first time the format was used at the Games, and her score hasn’t been beaten since.

Well, that’s not quite true – the next entry on this list will explain why – but no higher result has been ratified as a replacement record.

Will Lina’s record finally fall in Tokyo?

Park Sung-Hyun shoots at the Olympic Games in 2004.

3. Park Sung-Hyun

Score: 682

Olympics: Athens 2004

Why it makes the list: Park Sung-Hyun’s score at the 2004 Olympics stood as the world record for a phenomenal 11 years until Ki Bo Bae broke it by four points at the Universiade in 2015. The Korean archer went on to win individual gold at those Games and is widely regarded as one of the best – if not the best – recurve women of all time.

Curiously, because this qualification round was shot before the official start of the event, it was not ratified as an Olympic record. (This is partially the reason why qualifying has taken place on opening ceremony day ever since.)

2. Im Dong Hyun

Score: 699

Olympics: London 2012

Why it makes the list: This was the imposing Korean’s second top seed at the Olympics after he topped qualification in 2004 with a then-world record of 687. This was another Olympic and world record – and arguably the most impressive score in history. It didn’t look likely to be beaten for some time. But in reality, it only lasted as the world best for four years.

It’s also significant because, during an interview at the time, he told a journalist he was practically blind. (He exaggerated, as something of a joke.) And while he used quite strong glasses, he could see the target just fine.

1. Kim Woojin

Score: 700

Olympics: Rio 2016

Why it makes the list: The first recurve archer to hit 700 did it at the biggest event of his career. Kim Woojin’s incredible round in Rio – with an unbelievable weight of expectation on his shoulders – remains one of the sport’s all-time performances.

During the last end, he knew what he had, and he knew what he needed. When he dropped his penultimate arrow into the nine, he took a breath, calmly lifted his glasses and dropped his last shot right into the middle.

He stepped off the line, smiled and said to anyone who was listening: “new world record”.

What a guy.

The archery competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games start on 23 July 2021.