2014 v 2023: It takes a decade to build a big-stage winner

Lee Woo Seok and Marcus D’Almeida in Hermosillo.


“I didn’t lose the final, [Lee] Woo Seok won it. He was amazing.”

That was the quote given by Marcus D’Almeida in the mixed zone after finishing runner-up to the Korean archer at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.

An ‘historic result’, read the articles written at the time, and Brazil’s ‘first Olympic medal’.

The dawning of a new generation? A surge of young talent? Success at Rio 2016 ahead? A plethora of hyperbole followed. These wunderkinds were billed to be big stars.

It was, in hindsight, premature.

But nine years later, the very same duo returned to the spotlight, both literally (night finals) and figuratively, at the 2023 Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in Hermosillo, where they once again contested a major title.

Only this time, it was Marcus’ turn to top the podium.

The Youth Olympic Games is contested over 60 metres, rather than the 70 of senior recurve competition. The quality at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final is elite-plus.

There are very obvious differences between the two events.

But it’s no coincidence that, after nine years, the same archers appear in a final at the same event.

It’s not just that Lee and D’Almeida are good. Since Nanjing, it’s been clear that the pair are talented. It’s that they’ve reached the pinnacle of international competition, as seniors, at exactly the same time.

“We prepare well in Korea. Stadium sounds and colours, everything very similar, so we’re used to these situations,” said Woo Seok after collecting his silver in Hermosillo.

“That was a good game. So I feel very good.”

Their preparation hasn’t changed. The competition is annual. It’s the situation – Woo Seok and Marcus are ready.

Compare Lee Woo Seok’s technique in Nanjing, when he was 17, to now at 26 – and it’s extremely difficult to find anything different.

He’s clearly stronger. But otherwise, it’s identical.

Marcus’ has changed slightly more. He’s more upright. He rocks on his feet before every shot, either in ritual or to align his skeletal structure to better support his shot sequence, or both. And he’s got more tension in his back at full draw – it rotates the hand holding the string slightly.

It’s not much.

If the change isn’t external, it must be internal. 

“Each moment is a moment, a special moment, and I need to do my best in that moment,” said Marcus in Hermosillo. He’d been asked about taking revenge on Woo Seok.

It’s a far cry from his focus in 2014.

“I believe I can win a medal at Rio 2016.”

That’s what Marcus said after taking his Youth Olympic silver medal.

The results of the Brazilian archers at their home Olympics – and the pressure put on Marcus, both by himself and the country, is well documented. There was no fairytale ending in the Sambodromo.

His focus was wrong.

In this sport, it’s impossible to succeed by focusing on future results.

It’s only possible to invest in each arrow. In each moment. And that’s what has changed over the last nine years. That’s what this pair of next big things have learned.

And that’s why, nearly a decade on from Nanjing, Lee Woo Seok and Marcus D’Almeida are very much contenders to return to the Olympic podium.

This time at the Games themselves.