In some aspects, Kim Woo-jin’s journey has been similar to that of Indian archer Deepika Kumari. She was also world number one in 2012, but could not get a podium finish at the London Olympics. But, at least Deepika was at the Games. Woo-jin was in South Korea, arrow in hand, sorrow in heart.
South Korea’s pool of archers was so deep that he failed to qualify for the London Games. It was as if making it to the national team was more arduous than winning international events.
Till then, he had had a stellar career. He marked his arrival on the world stage by winning two gold medals—singles and team—at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. He then won the individual gold medal at the 2011 World Archery Championships and the 2012 Archery World Cup.
However, his mind wavered, as did his arrow, and his Olympic dreams were crushed. The continuous praise had made him lose focus, he told a South Korean newspaper. “I was utterly shocked. I felt as if I fell straight to the bottom,” he said. “The failure continued to haunt me.”
But, not one to bow out, Woo-jin kept at it. “I had to increase the amount of my practice,” he told the newspaper. “I used to shoot 400 to 500 arrows a day.... I began shooting 600 to 700 shots daily. I often got blisters on my hands.”
Soon, he put together a string of impressive performances to qualify for his first Olympics, which would be about redemption, and about the glory Woo-jin was perhaps too young to achieve.