By Yoo Jee-ho
LONDON, July 28 - In the tranquil sport of archery, South Korean men sent a loud message to the rest of the competition at the Olympics
If you want to win, you'll have to do better.
Im Dong-hyun shot 699 in the men's ranking round at Lord's Cricket Ground, breaking his own 72-arrow world record by three points. Teammate Kim Bub-min also surpassed the old standards, firing 698. The third Korean member, Oh Jin-hyek, was third with 690.
The next closest was Larry Godfrey of Britain
As a team, the gap was even larger. The South Korean trio combined for 2,087, also a world record, and France came in at second at 2,021. Only five of the 12 nations exceeded 2,000 points in combined totals.
But it was a slightly different story for women. Two South Koreans, Ki Bo-bae and Lee Sung-jin, ranked first and second, but Choi Hyeon-ju, battling jitters, was well behind at 21st. The trio managed to put up the highest combined points with 1,993, but they were only 14 points better than the U.S. team.
The men's team is seeking the country's fourth straight team gold, while each of the three is trying to win South Korea's first Olympic title in the individual event.
It was a telling display of dominance for a team that, leading up to the Olympics, was expected to meet some stiff challenges, from the U.S. and British archers.
Brady Ellison of the U.S., the world's No. 1 male archer, struggled to a 10th-place finish in the ranking round, managing just 676. Larry Godfrey of Britain was the closest to the Koreans in fourth place Friday, but he was still 10 behind the third-place Oh.
The South Korean archers, though, were shockingly nonchalant about their performances, as if they'd all along expected to break records on the first day. Kim, a shy 21-year-old, barely raised his eyes from the ground as he left the range. Oh, a brash 30-year-old and the oldest of the three, gave a shrug and uttered, "Yeah, we were 1-2-3 today."
Jang Young-sool, head coach for the whole archery team, also didn't talk about records.
"This was only the preliminary round," he said.
Only Oh Seon-tek, who handles the men's team, expressed some degree of surprise, especially with Olympic rookie Kim Bub-min.
"It was his first Olympics and so I was worried about his nerves," Oh said. "He didn't even do that well in the practice. I think the training on keeping his emotions in check worked well."
The women had even less to say after their day, however, as their performances fell short of lofty expectations. There had been lingering doubts about the men's team, but the women's team was largely expected to cruise through the competition.
The U.S. and also the Chinese Taipei team, which is third in the team rankings as Tan Ya-Ting matched Ki's score of 671, showed they mean business in London.
Ki, Lee and Choi did not acknowledge the media on their way out of the range. Jang, the head coach, admitted the ladies didn't put up the scores but they will have to forget about this quickly before the actual tournament.
Jang also said Choi, competing in her first Olympics, had problems with her nerves.
"She wasn't shooting with confidence early on," the coach said. "But she told me she grew more confident later in the competition."
After her first 36 arrows, Choi only ranked 33rd among 64, but her score of 330 over the final 36 shots was good for 10th best in that stretch.