#Tokyo10: Wu Jiaxin an interesting unknown after captivating trials

#Tokyo10: Wu Jiaxin.

#Tokyo10 profiles 10 archers poised to make an impact at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

  • Name: Wu Jiaxin, recurve woman from China.
  • Age: 24
  • World ranking: 127
  • Olympic experience: 2016

The only returning member from China’s recurve women’s team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Wu Jiaxin shot 689 out of a possible 720 points at the first Chinese team selection event in Chengdu – thought to be the third-highest competition total shot by a recurve woman in history.

And my, oh my, was the stage a big one. Not in terms of international competitors. But the literal stage that the Chinese team built to test its athletes ahead of the Games. Huge, purple and very Olympic – really impressive! 

Her excellent score serves as a major source of intrigue due to China’s decision to miss the international season because of travel restrictions. Will she be able to replicate that kind of performance, when it matters, in Tokyo?

Wu Jiaxin shoots at the Odense 2016 Hyundai Archery World Cup Final.

Reasons for hope

Wu Jiaxin’s 689 in the ranking round at the Chinese Olympic trials in March speaks for itself. As a statement of intent, it takes some beating.

The score was shot in a purpose-built replica arena designed to be as close as possible to the Olympic field at Yumenoshima Park. It’s a good indication of just how seriously China is taking these Games.

These selections were notably described in a release as the “most intensive, wonderful and cruel selection in Chinese archery team history” by He Ying, the two-time Olympic silver medallist who is now a member of the squad’s coaching staff.

The problem is big scores shot in a vacuum, no matter how big they might be, are lacking an important ingredient – real pressure.

Jiaxin is almost definitely going to be the best Chinese woman in Tokyo. Knowing that, just how stressed was she during the trials in which she shot her career-best score? She certainly didn’t match it again afterwards, once such a high expectation had been set. It’s difficult to know how things are going to play out when Kang Chae Young is standing two targets down.

Chinese women have an enviable record at the modern Olympic Games: two individual silvers, individual gold in 2008 and four team silver medals.

But at the last Games in Rio, they faltered. The team was eliminated in the quarterfinals despite qualifying third – although Wu, then just 19, moved steadily through the individual field before being stopped by the then-reigning champion, Ki Bo Bae of Korea, who ended up on the podium for a second consecutive Games, taking bronze.

Wu is the only returning woman archer on the Chinese team from 2016. She will likely be the anchor of another dangerous recurve women’s team that isn’t likely to suffer a similar fate as in Rio.

While we haven’t seen much of her leading out on the international stage – apart from a couple of medals at an Asia Cup event in the Philippines in 2019 – there is no doubt that she will be in form and improved from Rio, whatever her current world ranking says.

And unlike many other squads, China has apparently picked its likely mixed team ahead of any results in Tokyo: Wu and Wang Dapeng are expected to contest the competition.

Wu Jiaxin shoots at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Reasons for concern 

Like the other major Asian teams, China skipped the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit and Wu Jiaxin has not got into the rhythm of international competition before the Games. Her international record is still without major victories. The ranking round score is a big statement, but her head-to-head record is yet to terrify the biggest names. Of course, that could change with her first match in Tokyo.

Path to victory

In Rio, Wu qualified in the sixth spot. A similar performance, or something approaching what she did at Chinese trials, will leave her facing an easier draw and avoiding the very best until the quarterfinals. But then she will likely need to battle past at least one of the top seeds to make the final four – and definitely all the way.

As China’s 2008 gold medallist Zhang Juan Juan said: “You need to have ‘heart’ as an archer and as an athlete. This is what makes the difference.”

Did you know?

As well as the one big score, Jiaxin apparently dominated Chinese trials, breaking four national records and finishing 20 points clear of the second-place archer.

Header artwork by Eduardo Batán Molina.