It was the final day for the women in the individuals competition and everything was on the line to achieve the coveted gold at Rio 2016. For Chang Hye-jin of South Korea, that’s exactly what she did. Chang started off the day defeating Kang Un Ju 6-2, moving on to breeze by Great Britain’s Naomi Folkard 7-1. Unfortunately for her, her one opponent standing between her and the finals was teammate Ki Bo Bae, another heavily favored archer to win it all. Ki proved her worth after defeating 19-year-old Chinese sensation Wu Jiaxin 6-2, and stood humbled before the crowd and her compatriot in the semi-finals.
The number two and number three archers in the Olympics got off to a rather shaky beginning. Chang hit a disastrous three in her first set and Ki barely reached a score of 25, which was extremely unusual for shooters of their skill. Chang then regained her footing and composure winning back the second set, although Ki slipped again – this time scoring 24.
The third featured a detrimental six to Ki Bo Bae, and Chang took the lead 4-2. For Ki, everything seemed to go wrong at the worst time, just one match away from a shot at gold. Hope was regained when she tied the fourth set, but it was Chang Hye-jin who stood better than ever, her arms as stiff as the Christ Redeemer that watches over Rio. It was the most unexpected out of the three South Koreans who would be going for gold.
But before she would get her chance, there was a flurry of hungry contestants awaiting in the other half of the bracket. One them included number one sharpshooter Choi Mi-sun from South Korea as well. After beating Inna Stepanova, Choi appeared to be the heavy favorite out of her and Alejandra Valencia.
Yet her momentum completely disappeared into thin air when she shot a five in her first set, giving Valencia the 2-0 lead. Using her newfound confidence, Valencia notched two tens to win the second set, and with two more points from a semi-finals appearance, she shot consecutive deuces again for the sweep. It was a moment of disbelief as her Mexican fans roared for her upset.
With more to prove and acting as a lone wolf, Lisa Unruh of Germany made every arrow count in her journey to the semis. She beat the number two archer in the world, Tan Ya-Ting, on a shootout thanks to her keen eye catching the wind, and such skill was welcomed against Valencia.
Unruh had a slight edge in the match, and that was enough to garner a win to advance to the final. Even after shooting a five, she still showed no signs of emotion on her face, indicating her strength of mind on such a big stage. It would only get bigger against Chang Hye-jin, as did her role as underdog.
While the German ace would get a short rest, Alejandra Valencia and Ki Bo Bae still had the opportunity for bronze. Both competitors went back and forth, winning a set then losing as if it were expected routine. Although seeming like a hidden trait in South Korean archers, Ki’s best set was her final one, scoring all 30 points for a perfect win.
Now as one medal was won, another still needed a home. Unruh and Chang traded the first two sets, scoring nicely with the prior hitting the only ten. But as the third set rolled around Unruh found herself in a familiar position, shooting a seven in her second arrow to lose the set where Chang held a 4-2 lead. However the ending was written differently in this fairy tale, as the South Korean saved the best for last. Chang hit two tens in the gold zone for a 6-2 victory and another gold medal for her country in archery.
What was once a stone cold stare at the target became a shimmer of joy pointed from the podium as she celebrated the amazing feat. South Korea has dominated once more.