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By Ju-min Park
TOKYO (Reuters) - South Korea will look to extend its reign as the dominant force in archery at the Tokyo Olympics and will target a ninth successive gold in the women's team event.
Having won 23 golds, nine silvers and seven bronze medals, South Korea is by far the most successful nation in archery in Olympic history.
It has claimed a clean sweep in the women's team event since it was introduced in 1988, and won all four gold medals at Rio 2016 in the men's and women's team and individual events.
With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting training opportunities, the country has gone to extreme lengths to ensure its archers are fully prepared for the Games, building a replica of the arena that they will face in Tokyo.
They even reproduced the sounds of the archers can expect to hear in the arena, from chirping birds to mock announcements in Japanese and English.
"I felt the same level of tension as a real competition, because of the replica that matches 100 percent with the Tokyo Olympics," Kim Woo-jin, who won gold for South Korea in the team event in Rio, said in May.
A lack of previous Olympic experience might be a challenge for the Asian country. Four of South Korea's archers at the Games will be making their Olympic debut this summer.
One of them, Kim Je-deok, 17, can become the country's youngest Olympic medallist.
A veteran American archer is eyeing a first gold at his fourth Olympics.
The 32-year-old Brady Ellison has dominated the field on the way to securing the number one ranking in the world, but is still looking for his first gold medal having won silver in the team events at London 2012 and Rio four years later as well as a bronze in the individual in Brazil.
"I think that I was meant to shoot a bow. I love archery so much, because it's just been in my blood," Ellison told the Olympics channel.
The archery events at the Tokyo Olympics will take place from July 23 to July 31 and will be held at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field.
The Olympic competition brings together 64 men and 64 women who will compete in the men's and women's individual events, as well as the team and mixed team events.
The mixed team event is being first introduced into the Olympic programme in Tokyo.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Toby Davis)