South Korea dominates archery — despite its recent Olympic team performance — and relies on some unusual training methods:
Earlier this month, South Korea’s six Olympic archers held their final training session at a military base in Wonju, 71 miles east of Seoul. It was configured to look like the site where they will be competing this weekend.
Around 700 soldiers shouted, chanted and even booed during each shot as the archers competed under the tournament rules they will face in London.
“We thought soldiers would be more boisterous and distracting for the archers,” said Ban Mi-hye, a spokeswoman for Korea Archery Association.
In the buildup to London, the Korean archers have visited cemeteries late at night, undergone fitness training with Special Forces soldiers and conducted “wind-fighting” archery practice on Jeju Island, a windblown tourist island that gets some of the country’s most extreme weather.
The archers also spent a night on patrol at the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily fortified border between South and North Korea. “The exercise itself wasn’t very hard, but it made me mentally more mature by watching other soldiers working hard in harsh conditions,” said Im Dong-hyun, who set the men’s Olympic record score at the 2004 Athens Games and will be competing for the third time in London.
Then there was a six-hour walk along Seoul’s Han River during a winter night when the temperature was minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty-one archers endured that drill, held months before the Korean team was narrowed to the six athletes who traveled to London.
Those training sessions are aimed at enhancing concentration, preparing for distractions and building a fighting spirit.
To remind the archers that they mustn’t settle for less than perfection, the country’s archery team since the 1990s has been using a cutout that features only the two most inner sections of an archery target—nine and 10 points—during training.
The team’s record suggests the extreme training works. South Korea’s female archers have won the last six Olympic team gold medals. The men’s team has won the last three.