Rio Olympics 2016: Already tasked with defending her individual title at the Rio de Janeiro Games, South Korea’s archery queen Ki Bo-bae is also under pressure to preserve her country’s flawless record in the women’s team event at the Sambodromo venue.
The Korean women have grabbed every gold medal since the team event’s debut at the 1988 Seoul Games, with each success heaping additional pressure on the next generation to maintain the astonishing winning streak.
“Previous Korean archery teams have left a legacy with their great achievements and for many South Koreans when they think of the Olympics they remember how successful our archers have been,” the 28-year-old told Reuters in an interview last month. “So there is a bit of pressure weighing on our shoulders in that regard.”
The five-time world champion Ki will spearhead the Korean assault with world number one Choi Mi-sun and sixth-ranked compatriot Chang Hye-jin.
The standing joke in South Korea is that it’s harder to be selected for the national women’s team than win gold at the Games, and Ki’s stiffest competition may well come from Choi, a 20-year-old Olympic debutant who has soared to the top of the world rankings.
South Korea took three out of the four titles at London, reigning supreme at Lord’s where only their bronze medal-winning men’s team missed out.
The Sambodromo could hardly offer a more different setting to London’s venerable cricket ground.
Located in Rio’s gritty urban heart, the venue holds the flamboyant parade of samba schools during the annual Carnival, attracting huge crowds of revellers in the terraces that flank the 700-metre Marques de Sapucai street.
More subdued crowds may focus on the dozens of archers in intense concentration as they aim for the gold circle on targets 70 metres away.
But the men’s team event offers plenty of intrigue, with the United States a real chance to improve on their team silver from four years ago and frustrate top-ranked South Korea, who they stunned in the London semi-finals.
Men’s team champions Italy have 2004 individual winner Marco Galiazzo in their ranks once again, while the Chinese women’s team will bid to end 12 years of heartbreak after finishing second to the Koreans at the last three Olympics.
The tournament kicks off with the rankings rounds on Friday, with the men’s team gold medal up for grabs the following day.