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[MEET KOREA'S STAR OLYMPIANS] Kim Je-deok, Double Olympic Gold Medalist in Archery Updated: 2021-08-13 17:06:42 KST

The last whistle has blown, the flame lighting the cauldron has been extinguished, and just like that, the improbable Tokyo Olympics have come to a close.
But, public interest in star Olympians have all but faded in fact, it's been soaring for some of Team Korea's Olympic champions who rose to fame at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games this year.
Tonight, we continue our special series, Meet South Korea's Star Olympians.
He surely shocked the world winning two golds at his Olympics debut, he and his teammate made the rare 'Robin Hood' shot at the Games this year, and he rose to fame for his signature cheer,
At just seventeen years of age, two-time gold medalist in archery, Kim Je-deok.
Je-deok, pleasure to have you on our show.

It's wonderful to see you, Je-deok.


Congratulations on winning not one, but two gold medals at Tokyo 2020 at just 17 years old. How does it feel to be a double Olympic champion?

I'm incredibly happy. I performed 200% better than the goal I set so, I'm very satisfied and have no regrets.

I'm aware you got vaccinated a little later than others which is why you're in quarantine at the moment. How are you spending time these days?

They're allowing me to go out to train at a training facility so I'm just practicing and working on my craft in preparation for the World Archery Championships in September.

What are some of the biggest changes that you feel before and after the Tokyo Olympics?

*Well, I now hold two Olympic titles. So, that's a huge change and in a way, could work as pressure for me as I prepare for my upcoming competitions. But, instead of feeling pressured, I'm trying my best to keep high self-esteem and shoot with even more confidence.

Je-deok, your famous "Fighting " shouts created quite the buzz. Where does that energy come from and what is the mindset behind your signature cheer?

The Olympics bring with it a lot of pressure and tension. It's inevitable for an athlete to feel tense.
I yelled "Fighting " to overcome that, to get rid of the nervousness. Before I began my first event, I asked my coach if it would be okay to shout "Fighting " out loud and he was fine with it, even telling me to do it with more confidence. So I think I yelled it even louder and more often at Tokyo 2020.

What was your most memorable match at the Olympics?

Definitely the Korea-Japan rival match in the semifinals of the men's team event.

Why is that?

First, because of the rivalry between Korea and Japan. Plus, we were neck and neck until the end so there was the risk of elimination. I wanted to carefully shoot perfect tens but the fear of making a mistake was incredible. In the end, though, my teammates and I accepted that whoever would go on to win would win for a reason. So I simply shot my arrows without thinking too much about the results. It was an electrifying match.

You joined forces with archers much older than you in the men's team event. And in the newly introduced mixed event, you teamed up with An San who went on to claim the triple crown. Which gold medal was harder to win?

All Olympic medals are difficult to win and I gave my very best in every event that I took part. I think I just reaped the rewards of how much work I put in. My initial goal was to win the men's team event so it's an honor that I was able to win both.

We witnessed the rare 'Robin Hood' shot in the mixed team semifinals with you and An San. What meaning does that hold?

I've been competing for eight years and that was the first time I ever saw a 'Robin Hood' shot in competition so it was quite a surprise. Then after seeing it up close with my own eyes, I couldn't help but think that the arrow was a good luck charm.

* There are probably many reasons why Korean archery is world number one but as an archer, what do you think is the secret behind it?

* I'd say, first and foremost, the rigorous and extremely competitive trial process to join the national team. Everything is perfectly fair and square, leaving no doubt over the selection process and I think that enables archers to focus on improving their skills without having to worry about anything else. I also think Korean archers are just supremely confident.

They say it's harder for an archer to make the South Korean Olympic team than to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Having experienced both, is this true?

It is absolutely true.

Unlike the Olympics which proceeds in a tournament format, the national trials operate under a ranking system. This was my first time going through the Olympic national team trials and I felt my skills improve with every arrow I shot.
The secret to Korean archery lies in the ultimate meritocracy behind the athlete selection process.

You received quite a lot of prize money from Hyundai Motor Group and the Korea Archery Association. Have you started spending it yet?

Not yet. I can use it to buy items that my family needs at home but I won't be making any big purchases. I'd rather save up and invest in my future.

Now, this bit is a little tricky, isn't it? You don't have a driver's license yet, but you've been gifted a car as a prize, as well?

You're right. The news did make me contemplate a little bit as I don't even have a national ID card, let alone a driver's license So, I plan to get my ID card issued after the upcoming World Championships and as for my driver's license, I don't think it would be too late to apply for it once I become an adult.

So, what do you plan to do with your car?

It'd be nice if I could give my dad the keys but unfortunately, he's not in the right physical condition to drive. It saddens me that I can't share the gift with him.

I'm aware you were raised by your grandmother and she isn't too well, either.
Is there anything that you would like to say to her?

Grandma, what an honor it was for me to win not one, but two gold medals at the Olympics.
I mean, I wasn't even sure I'd make it to the national team
I'm going to do my best to accomplish all my dreams and goals.
I'll see you soon at the nursing home, grandma.

*Now, I know Hyundai Motor Group has been a huge sponsor of the Korean archery team. How has their support been helpful for you and other Korean archers in terms of athletic performance?

* The most effective was definitely the construction of a near exact replica of the Tokyo Olympics archery venue for Korean archers at the Jincheon National Training Center. It was 90% identical to the actual arena in Tokyo so Team Korea was able to adjust much quicker to the competitive atmosphere in Tokyo. We were able to undergo all sorts of training at the facility in Jincheon and it helped tremendously so I'm very grateful. Also, a high-precision shooting machine developed by Hyundai Motor Group helped us pick out the highest quality arrows so that we could shoot with the ones most suited for competition.

* Je-deok, you're still in high school. What plans do you have after graduation? You must have a list of things that you want to do or achieve. Perhaps go to college or join a professional team?

I probably would've gone to complete my mandatory military service before anything else but I'm happy now that that's been taken care of, thanks to my gold medals.
But, I still have dreams and goals that I want to accomplish.
My dream has always been to win the men's team event in the Olympics, in the World Championships and the Asian Games. I only have the Olympic title right now so, I still have the other two to claim.
* I'm going to give it my all to accomplish my goals one by one, starting with the World Championships title next month.

Je-deok, is there anything else that interests you outside of archery?

I'm not really into other sports or anything else, really. I just love archery.
That amazing feeling after shooting a perfect ten is what keeps me going. Archery is just amazing to me.

Lastly, for all our viewers around the world, can we ask you to do your signature "Fighting " roar?

To everyone out there, thank you so much for watching me perform at the Olympics.
I promise I'll work even harder to become one of the greats. Fighting

Thank you for your time Je-deok and we look forward to you acing the World Championships as well Arirang will be rooting for you. Fighting

Thank you.
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