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August 11, 2008

South Korea wins men's archery team competition

BEIJING (AP) South Korea took the gold medal in the Olympic men's team archery competition Monday, matching the feat of its women a day earlier.

The team of Im Dong-hyun, Lee Chang-hwan and Park Kyung-mo defeated Italians Mauro Nespoli, Ilario Di Buo' and Marco Galiazzo by 227 points to 225, winning gold for South Korea for the third Olympics in succession.

In a spectacular rise, Chinese archers Jiang Lin, Li Wenquan and Xue Hai Feng - seeded 12th and last after the ranking round - defeated Britain, Russia and finally Ukraine to take the bronze. It was China's first ever men's archery medal.

The final came down to the last few arrows after earlier looking like a rout.

After 12 of the 24 arrows, the South Koreans led the Italians by seven points and looked like they were headed toward breaking their own world record. However, in the second half they dropped a string of points, and the teams were level with three arrows each remaining.

Im insisted that his team had never lost confidence despite losing the big lead.

"We knew that we were good, even if we slowed down toward the end," he said.

Italy's final shot - a seven from the bow of 20-year-old Nespoli - proved the difference between the two teams. His first shot of the final was also a seven, although in between he shot four 10s.

"As far as the first is concerned, well, it was the first in the final and of course nerves had a lot to do with it," Nespoli said. "As for the last, I was aware that there was a real possibility of winning the gold, so nerves again might have had a role."

Nespoli is by far the least-experienced of the Italian trio: Galiazzo won the individual gold medal in Athens, and Di Buo' is competing in his sixth games.

The final shot of the tournament was Park's. He needed eight to ensure victory; he scored nine.

"Of course I was very tense. I was under pressure and I was nervous, but it's part of the game," he said.

"In order to prepare for that, in Korea we made our practice venues as close as possible to the actual venues. Sometimes we had a lot of people around us, so we could simulate the actual setting of the game."

South Korea's score of 227 was an Olympic record, but fell short of the world record of 231 that it set in Germany last year.

The South Korean fans, massed in the stand closest to the archers, sang and chanted between every end, raising their red and blue scarves in unison.

A small group of Italian fans responded, and the good-natured South Korean group took up the chant of "I-ta-lia" as well.

The Chinese were cheered by their home fans - and by the South Korean fans - as they defeated Ukraine 222-219 for the bronze.

"We were very excited and very proud to have the chance to put up this performance in China," Li said. "We are very happy so many Chinese turned out to watch our game. We are sorry we didn't take the gold, and in the future we are going to make more efforts."

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