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S.Koreans on form in archery
August 16, 2004 15:52 IST
South Korea's women archers mastered trying conditions in the individual competition on Sunday when the Olympics returned to the venue of the first modern Games in 1896.
Rising to the historic occasion at the marble Panathinaiko Stadium, Bhutanese wildcard Tshering Chhoden staged the biggest upset on the opening day to beat Chinese 11th seed Lin Sang.
Just a few hundred spectators witnessed the historic homecoming to the central Athens venue known as Kallimarmaron, or beautiful marble, a site used for sports since ancient times.
Cheers resonated around the amphitheatre when the first archers made a gladiatorial entrance, passing through an ancient 100-metre tunnel into the horseshoe of terraces.
Gusts of wind put many of the archers off target and several arrows missed the mark altogether in a display of wayward shooting not seen before at the Olympics.
"I have to complain about the wind," said China's He Ying, who beat Britain's Helen Palmer. "It's not normal conditions.
"Also we didn't know from the weather forecast that we should have to compete under these conditions."
Palmer added: "I have not competed in anything like this. The strength of the wind and also the fact it was coming from different directions made it very difficult to judge."
But all three members of the Korean team, which is expected to repeat their country's 1-2-3 finish of Sydney four years, showed their class in the wind with convincing wins.
The Korean women have been the dominant force in archery over two decades, winning all nine individual and team gold medals since 1984 -- a feat unmatched in any sport.
Yun Mi-jin, Olympic champion four years ago at the age of just 17, overcame early nerves to beat Hanna Karasiova of Belarus 162-155, while Lee Sung-jin and Park Sung-hyun also advanced with comfortable wins in the 18-arrow shootouts.
But it was the 24-year-old wildcard entry from Bhutan who stole the show when she fired 159 points, one of the highest scores of the day, to beat Lin by three points.
Back home, she is one of the few women practising the modern version of a sport that in its traditional form is Bhutan's national pastime and a key element of its cultural identity.
"The win is important for my whole country and I hope that I have made the people in Bhutan proud," she said. The Himalayan kingdom has only two competitors at the Games, both in archery. In another upset, Philippines wildcard Jasmin Figueroa upstaged Italy's Natalia Valeeva, a former world number one, by two points.
In the afternoon, the gusts kept scores down by an average of around 20 points compared to the morning session totals and the contest was briefly held up when a mobile wooden shelter used by press photographers was blown onto the range.