Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic links: the inspirational archer and shooter

Via CS Monitor, this story of Zhang Juanjuan got my attention:

Zhang came in ranked No. 27 in the world, less a machine than a mercenary. She might not always be the most consistent of performers (gasp!), but in knockout competitions – like the Olympics – she is deadly.

Just ask the Koreans. They had not lost this event since 1984.

Joo Hyun-Jung entered the competition ranked No. 3 in the world. Zhang dispatched her tidily in the quarterfinal.

Yun Ok-Hee entered the competition ranked No. 2 in the world. She also held the record for firing the best recorded round of archery of any woman in the history of the sport. In May of this year, she fired 12 arrows at a target at an event in Turkey. Eleven hit the bulls-eye – 119 of 120 possible points. Zhang dispatched her, too, tying the Olympic record of 115 in the process.

Park Sung-Hyun entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world. She was the defending Olympic champion and had set the Olympic record of 115 earlier in the day.


With [Zhang's] nation watching, she was slowly turning the screw – no question of age or piling up medals in weak events. Just her nerve against the best in the world.

When her final arrow hit the target – a 9 – she had won by a single point.

The magnitude of this upset cannot be understated. Last month, the New York Times did an article on the South Korean archery dynasty, quoting one of the competitors as saying, "Our sensitive fingertips, descended from our ancestors, and our spiritual strength and willingness to fight until the very end -- they are the secrets." In other words, the success of South Korean archers is written in their DNA. How do you beat that?

Zhang, in taking the crown, took out South Korea -- and the world's -- No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 archers, in succession. Don't know your opinions, but to me that's mind-boggling.

Here's another article about this. I'm still in shock.


I mentioned Chinese shooter Du Li in my ESPN The Blog article this week, saying how she could barely express herself through her tears after placing fifth in the 10-meter air rifle, an event she was expected to win. Well, she was in tears again Thursday after the 50-meter three-position rifle event, but under different circumstances: as a winner. She defeated Katerina Emmons, who won gold in the 10-meter event.

"The five days between my loss and this event were harder and longer than the four years between the Olympics," Du said something to that effect in her post-event TV interview. "I didn't want to leave the house. Everyone was so supportive, every time I heard their words I wanted to cry."

She was in tears again. That was expression enough.


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