Former Olympic Champion Ki Bo Bae announces retirement

Ki Bo Bae and family on her retirement.

London 2012 Olympic Champion Ki Bo Bae announced her retirement from competition at a press conference earlier today in Seoul.

The 35-year-old, who picked up a bow in 1997 and won the World Archery Championships in 2015, said that “after 27 years of competing as an athlete, I am now ready to return to my daily life.”

Ki Bo Bae ends her career as one of the most successful and popular archers of the modern era.

Famous for winning two gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics, she returned for a second Games at Rio 2016 where she collected a third gold with the still-unbeaten Korean women’s team and fell just short of a repeat individual title, losing to teammate and eventual winner Chang Hye Jin in the semifinals.

“I have a lot of regrets. Many expected me to win two in a row and I had that dream,” she said today. “It was a match that left so many regrets that I wanted to turn back time.”

After becoming a mother in 2018 and completing a doctorate in education in 2022, Ki Bo Bae made a surprise return to the Korean national squad last season.

That would prove to be her final stint in the iconic white uniform.

“I have always looked forward and moved forward but now that I am about to put down my bowstring, it doesn’t feel real,” she said. “I firmly believe that the space I leave will be reliably filled by the next generation.”

Ki Bo Bae talked extensively about her time during the London 2012 Olympics, calling the one-arrow shoot-off to beat Aida Roman to gold the most memorable moment of her career.

“That one shot could have changed my life,” she said.

“It was a difficult moment but I think it was a turning point in my life as it led to that gold medal.”

She was asked for the advice she would give to the archers selected to represent Korea at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, for which she will work as a commentator for national broadcaster KBS, a role she has filled in the past

“In Paris, we’re trying to win 10 consecutive team events. I won numbers seven and eight. The pressure and burden were incredibly heavy,” she said.

“Seeing our juniors competing in last year’s Asian Games, I was convinced that a new history would be written in Paris if we prepared well. I will support, silently, from behind.”

Ki Bo Bae’s Olympic success – three gold, one bronze – leaves her third in the all-time individual medal table (modern-era) behind only legends Kim Soo-Nyung and Park Sung-Hyun ahead of the Games in Paris.

She accrued seven medals at the World Archery Championships across her career – including that individual title in 2015 – won the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final three times (2012, 2016 and 2017), and the World University Games twice.

Her intention, she said today in Seoul, is to pursue a second career in archery education.

Career highlights: Ki Bo Bae

  • 2010: Asian Games team gold
  • 2011: Inaugural mixed team world champion, Universiade Champion and triple gold medallist
  • 2012: Olympic Champion, Olympic team gold, Archery World Cup Champion
  • 2015: World Archery Champion, Universiade Champion
  • 2016: Olympic team gold, individual bronze, Archery World Cup Champion
  • 2017: Archery World Cup Champion
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