An San of South Korea was cool as she challenged sexist abuse online to seal a treble in gold at the Tokyo Olympics, but the as archer has been fighting discrimination since childhood.
An’s three gold medals in three archery events – in mixed teams, women’s and individual teams, while breaking an Olympic record of 25 years – have put her in the history books.
She is the first South Korean to win more than two medals in a single Summer Games. She is also the first woman since 1904 to win three gold medals in archery at the same Olympics.
Not bad for someone who was only 20 in February, who was competing in the Olympics for the first time and who was once told to change schools if she wanted to do archery in as a girl.
When An made headlines last week, it wasn’t just because of his surprising achievements in Tokyo.
Rather, it was because she was about to be abused online by some South Korean men over her short hair, which sparked a wave of support from women. furious at her treatment.
Male detractors of An said her hairstyle suggested she was a feminist and some asked her to apologize – and even return her Olympic medals.
# photo1 But she swept the hatred online to win the number three gold on Friday, this time in a final play-off in the individual category.
In a statement, she said she “tried not to care” and instead focused on her sport.
The archers’ heart rates, first broadcast at the Olympics, showed An’s peaked at 119 beats per minute, well below the 167 bpm of her Russian opponent Elena Osipova.
It was more proof of An’s remarkable composure under the pressure, but she later admitted, “When it was all over, I felt like my heart was going to explode. “
– ‘Boys only’ –
An’s journey to the top was far from easy.
She started archery in elementary school, first because – according to reports in South Korea – it came with an offer of free fried chicken.
The school team, newly formed at the time, was only for boys, but young An insisted she wanted to learn too.
At first, the school principal advised her to move to another school if she wanted to do archery, coach Kim Seong-eun told South Korean radio.
# photo2But An didn’t give in and the school eventually started a girls’ archery team because of her, Kim said.
The team is still going strong to this day, a legacy of An’s refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer.
Kim said An is generally “very cheerful and has a funny sense of humor,” but becomes extremely calm – and even cold – when competing.
In 2018, while still in high school, An told a television reporter that she hoped to become an athlete well known to everyone, “including those who don’t know the sport at all,” at the same title as the South Korean Olympic figure skating champion. Kim Yuna.
“Looks like San’s wish has come true today,” her tearful mother Koo Myung-soon said after watching her daughter win her third gold medal on television.
© 2021 AFP