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S. Korean archers eye sweep of gold medals at London Olympics
By Yoo Jee-ho and Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- With 30 days left until the London Olympics, South Korean archers on Wednesday vowed to go for a complete sweep of the gold medals.

   An individual and a team gold medal each is up for grabs in men's and women's competitions. South Korea is sending three male and three female archers to London, where they will try to inherit the winning tradition of their predecessors.

   "As has always been the case, the goal is to win all four titles," said Oh Jin-hyek, the senior member of the men's squad at 30. He and his teammates held an open practice session and made themselves available for media at the National Training Center in northern Seoul, the nation's largest training ground for Olympic athletes.


"We're all prepared to meet the goal," added Oh, who will participate in his first Olympics.

   South Korea has grabbed 16 archery gold medals in Olympics, more than any other country. The women's team has won the last six gold medals, and six of the last seven women's individual titles have gone to a South Korean archer. The men's team was victorious in 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

   Simply put, winning fewer than two gold medals will be considered a disappointment. To exceed lofty expectations, South Korea will have to end its gold medal drought in the men's individual competition. South Korea has settled for silver three times and bronze once.

   "I'd be lying if I said we weren't thinking about winning that individual gold," Oh said. "But no matter who wins the individual gold, we'll be happy for each other."

   Im Dong-hyun, 26, will compete in his third Olympics. He said he had to battle nerves at the previous two Summer Games but is now entering the London Olympics with more confidence.

   "In Beijing, I was desperate to win the individual title," said Im, who ultimately finished off the podium. "This time, I am desperate, but not so much that I am losing sleep over it. I feel more at ease and more confident that results will take care of themselves."

   Kim Bub-min, a 21-year-old Olympic rookie, said he will look to his older, more experienced teammates to help him stay steady.

   "I am excited and nervous at the same time," Kim said. "I am just trying to have fun training with my teammates, and to enjoy this feeling of nervousness."

   The women's team also has two rookies and a former Olympian. Lee Sung-jin was a member of the gold medal winning team at the 2004 Athens Olympics and won the individual silver there, too.

   She said the experience has only exacerbated her anxiety because now she knows how big a stage the Olympics can be.

   "In Athens, I was too young to fully grasp the magnitude of the competition," said Lee, now 27. "Now that I know how important it is, I am trying not to put too much weight on it."

   Ki Bo-bae, who starred at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, said Lee is the spiritual leader of the team.

   "This is my first Olympics and I am trying to pick Sung-jin's brain to learn what it's all about," Ki said. "I can't wait to go to London."

   Choi Hyun-joo is the fellow first-time Olympian, though she's the oldest member of the team at 27. She called making her Olympic debut "a dream come true."

   "I've imagined myself on the Olympic stage every day," she said. "I know I am a little late to all this, but I never once thought I wouldn't make it."

   A significant rule change will likely provide some twist to archery in London. Four years ago, archers shot 12 arrows, with three arrows each in four ends, or sets. In London, they will shoot three arrows in each of five ends, and the winner will be determined on the best-of-five set score, rather than accumulated points.

   Under the new setting, archers can actually lose a match even with a higher number of total points, if they fail to win three ends. This could benefit streaky archers who may shoot a 6 and then hit the bull's eye 10 with the next shot, rather than South Korean archers known for their steady score.

   Oh said the archers have had special drills, such as moving targets every one second and shooting at different targets with each different arrow, to strengthen their concentration.

   "We've been going through systematic training, so that we can compete in optimal shape," Oh said.

   Archery will begin with ranking rounds on July 27, the first day of the Olympics.