They were tears of victory, but not of joy.

Ki Bo Bae arrived at her press conference in mourning, eager to apologise for the gold medal that adorned her neck. The glory of her accomplishment couldn’t redeem the manner in which she achieved it.

“Koreans do not shoot eights,” she said, refusing to celebrate the arrow that won her the London 2012 Olympic Games.

A perfectionist even by Korea’s ferociously competitive standards, Ki Bo Bae’s performance was a relative blunder when viewed within the prism of her country’s staggering archery legacy.

“I had heard a couple of people say I was lucky, and it made me emotional,” she explained recently. Even after guiding Korea to its eighth consecutive team gold just days earlier, she still felt compelled to prove herself.

Accusations of luck may have been overly harsh, but they served to underscore the narrative that has long followed Korea’s archery elite.

Scoring that eight in the one-arrow shoot-off was enough to fend off Mexico’s Aida Roman for the Olympic gold at London. But would Ki Bo Bae have been as fortunate had she been vying for a spot on the Korean national team?

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