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10 Most Famous Archers Throughout History

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Tim Rhodes

Archery is one of the oldest art forms of a battle that is still practiced and competed today.

You’ll see that ancient archers date back to the Stone age around 20,000 BC, with the Ancient Egyptians dating 3,000 BC using it for hunting and warfare.

The Shang Dynasty of China in 1766-1027 BC had chariots that carried an archer, but it was in the Zhou Dynasty in 1027-256 BC that had archery tournaments done for entertainment.

Japan followed in the 6th century integrating martial arts known as “kyujutsu” or the way of the bow, now termed “kyudo” in modern times.

The Greco-Roman period used a longbow for warfare and hunting, as recorded in their pottery.

The Middle Eastern Assyrians and Parthians mastered longbow from horseback, with Attila the Hun and his Mongols fighting the Crusaders in Europe, Asia & Turkey.

Since then, the longbow was used in European battles and decreed that an adult man practice longbow every Sunday.

10 Most Famous Archers Throughout History

Below is a list of some of the great male and female archers who figured in the Olympics and other historical figures.

They are some of the toughest athletes of the sport.

1. Kim Soo Nyung – South Korea 

Kim Soo Nyung is a South Korean and hailed as one of the best archers of all time.

She is the most decorated in Olympic History with six Olympic medals in her professional career.

As early as 17 years old, she was one of the heroes in the Korean Team in the 1988 Seoul Games won gold medals in the individual and team events.

She was consistent with her wins of double golds for 1989 and 1991 in the World Championships.

Kim won a silver medal in the individual event and gold for the Barcelona 1995 Olympics team event.

At the age of 21, she decided to retire and start a family for the next seven years.

But she came back in 1999, and a year after won a bronze medal in the Individual and gold medal in the team event in Sydney, Australia.

The International Archery Federation (FITA) was named Kim, a Female Archer of the 20th century.

Medals Earned in Competition

  • Seoul Olympics 1988, Kim won gold in the Archery Individual FITA Round for women and gold for the Archery Teams FITA Round Women.
  • Barcelona 1992, Kim won gold in the Archery Team FITA Olympic round 70M and silver for the Archery Individual FITA Olympic round 70M. 
  • Sydney 2000, Kim won a bronze for the Archery Individual FITA Olympic round 70M and gold for the Archery Team FITA Olympic round 70M.

2. Darrel Pace – USA

Darrel Pace is an American and the only person to win multiple gold medals in the Archery Individual Men’s division of the Olympic games.

The next year, Pace won the US National championships in 1973 and started his four consecutive wins from that year onwards.

In 1974, he set a new world record with 1291 points on the 1440 Archery round.

In the 1976 Montreal Olympics in Canada, Pace, at 19 years old, shot a new world record of 2571 points in the Individual competition under the Double FITA format.

Again in the year 1979 in Japan, he earned a world record of 1341 points using an untuned bow.

The next year, using an all-aluminum shaft, he shot 1316 points and won his first World Archery Championship in Switzerland.

But in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, when the US boycotted the Olympics, Pace was thinking of retiring but was ready to compete in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

That was the highest point of Pace’s career, where he finished with 2616 points, a new Olympic record.

In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the half FITA rounds used for eliminations took Pace out of the race and, that was the last of his appearance.

Pace has a signature stance using a 54 lbs. heavy bow using technical improvements such as the V-bars and Kevlar strings for recurve Archery.

Medals Earned in Competition

  • Montreal 1976 Olympics, Pace won gold in the Individual Archery division.
  • Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, PAce won the same gold medal for the Individual Archery division.
  • Seoul 1988 Olympics, Pace won a silver in the Team Archery division.

3. Im Dong Hyun- Korea

Im Dong Hyun is a South Korean raging superstar in his country because of the medals he has brought home despite his physical handicap.

Hyun is legally blind, with his vision at 20/200 in the left eye and 20/100 in the right eye.

His myopia would require a person to stand ten times closer compared to someone with perfect vision.

But Hyun can hit the size of a grapefruit from a 70-meter distance by looking at the target ring colors of yellow, red, blue, and black.

His handicap did not slow him down, and he refuses to wear glasses because they make him uncomfortable.

Instead, Hyun “relies on distinguishing between the bright colors on the target,” describing it as “different color paints dropped in the water.”

You’ll be surprised when he admits that if he can’t distinguish between colors, then that would be a problem. 

The first time Hyun competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics, he earned 687 points, establishing a world record in a 72-arrow individual recurve qualifying round.

In 2012, he set another record of 699 for 72 arrows beating his record. 

For a sport that requires a sharpened focus and eyesight, Hyun has proven that he can beat any obstacle earning him a popular status for his competitive achievements. 

Medals Earned in Competition

  • Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Hyun won gold for the Team Archery division.
  • Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Hyun won gold for the Team Archery division.
  • London 2012 Olympic Games, Hyun won bronze for the Team Archery division.

4.  Yun Mi-Jin – South Korea

Yun Mi-Jin is a South Korean world-class archer and one of the most successful Olympic athletes.

Referred to as the “Queen with four crowns,” she is the second athlete to hold an Olympic and World individual and team title at the same time.

She was the former world number one in women’s recurve and one of the few who won three Olympic gold medals throughout her competitive career.

Min-Jin is a petite and poised archer, but her mental strength and focus make her a serious competitor.

She is no power-packed archer, but her technical superiority has given her the edge in the Olympic games.

When she was 17 years old, she made the world record of 173/180 for the 18-arrow FITA Individual contest in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.

She earned her wins, including the individual and team events in the 2003 Olympic Test Event in Athens and the team event in the 2002 Asian championships.

She had the honor to win both individual and team events at the 2001 Korean championships and the individual and team events at the German Grand Prix.

Mi-Jin then won gold and matched her score in the 2004 Athens Olympics, with a bit of a political battle cry of unifying North and South Korea.

She wanted to be the first individual gold medallist to defend the Olympic crown successfully.

Medals Earned in Competition

  • Sydney 2000, Min-Jin won two gold medals for the Individual and Team  Archery division.
  • Athens 2004, Min-Jin won a gold for the team archery division. 

5. Ki Bo Bae –  South Korea

Ki Bo Bae is a South Korean archer and referred to by the media as the Beautiful Archer being compared to a K-Pop singer’s beauty.

Aside from Archery, Bae has been interior decorating and worked as an archery commentator for the KBS national broadcast of the 2014 Asian Games.

She competed in the 2012 London Olympics and won gold shooting an 8 with her arrow slightly closer compared to her competitor.

She is a real phenomenon in the archery world with the title of being the World’s number 2 athlete.

With a wide lead from her competitors, she won a gold for the individual division and then followed up with another gold for the team event.

In 2015, she overtook her teammate Hyun’s standing world record and scored a 686 to qualify for the Universiade in Gwangju.

From 2011 to 2015, she has earned five gold medals out of seven world championship medals in four short years.

Bae’s dream was to become the first female archer to win the back to back individual archery division in the Olympics.

She knew it was an ambitious feat, but she was determined to leave a record and surpass her well-known Korean seniors.

Bae has bigger dreams that include teaching Archery to the students of Gwangju University and become a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Medals Earned in Competition:

  • London 2012 Summer Olympics, Bae won two golds in the Individual and Team Archer divisions.
  • Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics won two golds for the Individual and Team Archery divisions.

6. Michele Frangelli – Italy

Michele Frangelli is an Italian archer who wrote “The Heretic Archer” as an Archery manual for developing your training habits and styles that work for you.

Frangelli started his training at the young age of 10 years old in elite Archery in 1986 and has improved his craft for over two decades.

He had many experiences and almost got close to winning every crown in both the junior and senior competitive archery divisions.

Frangelli is the only world champion in the triumvirate of indoor, outdoor, and field disciplines in both the European and Olympic arena.

 His technique is distinctly unique from an outside observer because it seems to defy the simplicity and elegance which are part of orthodox archery principles.

Along with his father Vittorio in the 1990s, they developed the “heretic technique” designed to focus on the shot cycle, where there is complete control.

From 1999 to 2003, Frangelli was a dominant competitor in the 2000 European Grand Prix and won all three legs of the competition then won the individual 2003 World title in New York.

He shot 3 Indoor World records in 2001-2002 and won the field championships in 2000, 2002, and 2006.

While he was able to beat the 3-member Korean Team men’s division, in 2000, it was in 2002 that he won a gold medal in 2002 Nimes with a close match with Jae-Hun, another Korean.

Frangelli continues to compete in major competitions like the Indoor Archery World series and is part of the Italian National Team’s experienced veterans.     

 Medals Earned in Competition

  • Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics, Frangelli won bronze in the Team Archery division.
  • Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, Frangelli won silver in the Team Archery division.
  • London 2012 Summer Olympics, Frangelli won gold for the Team Archery division. 

7. Park Kyung-Mo – South Korea

Park Kyung-Mo is a South Korean archer with a 15-year international career.

At age 18, he qualified for the National Team and won a gold medal for the 1993 World Archery Championship individual division.

The next year at age 19, he won 2 gold medals for the Individual and Team Archery division in the Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan.

He laid low for the next six years and was inactive in the front-line national side, but he returned in perfect form and style.

He led the Powerhouse Korean men’s team and won gold in 2001, 2003, and 2005 in the World Archery Championships and Asian Championships.

In 2004, Kyung-Mo finally competed in the Olympics and won gold in the Team Archery division.

He went on to win the 2006 Archery World Cup finals and a win for the team division for the Asian Games.

With the support of the Korean Archery Association, Kyung-Mo practiced extensively with his teammates in a Beijing replica archery field.

It was a close competition with the Italians, but Kyung-Mo’s final shot won gold for the team division and silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics individual division.

Retiring after the Beijing Olympics, he coaches the Professional Team of Gongju City Hall and hopes to fulfill his grand slam dream through one of his players.

Medals Earned in Competition:

  • Athens 2004 Olympics, Kyung-Mo won gold for the Team Archery division.
  • Beijing 2008, Kyung-Mo won gold for the Team Archery Division and silver for the Individual Archery division.  

8. Lee Sung Jin – South Korea

Lee Sung Jin is a South Korean archer who started her archery career at 19 years old.

She won 2 gold medals twice in 2004 and 2012, both in the Team FITA 70m division, and a silver for the individual Archery division in 2004.

Along with her teammates, Jin broke the world record for the combined team score of 2,030 points for 216 arrows beating the Korean record of 2,160 points.

But this was unrecorded as a new world record because it was during the ranking round.

The preliminary ranking round determines the individual and team division’s elimination round but is not considered an official record.

Jin went through the first round of elimination and won against Egypt, then faced two more opponents, the Greek and Russian athletes moving his place to the quarterfinals.

She then faced two Taiwan athletes, with one athlete ranked 10th place World Champion.

In her first 2004 Olympic competition, she was part of the team that won gold, but Jin also won the individual division’s silver.

The next year, Jin joined the 2005 World Championships in Madrid and won gold for the team division on all four of the Recurve competitions.

Along with the gold medal for the Team win, Jin won silver for the Individual Archery division at the 2005 World Championships.

Medals Earned in Competition:

  • Athens 2004, Jin won gold for the Team Archery FITA division and silver for the Individual Archery FITA division.
  • London 2012 Summer Olympics, Jin won a gold for the Team Archery FITA division.

9. Howard Hill- USA

Howard Hill was one of the earliest known expert bowmen in the United States for over two decades from 1930- 1950.

He was often introduced as the “World’s Greatest Archer” and won 196 competitions in the bow-and-arrow field tournaments.

He was a multi-talented athlete in college and even became a semi-pro baseball player as a side career.

He decided to go back to his childhood passion that was archery and started joining longbow field competitions.

He used his employment background as a machinist and manufactured archery equipment or what they call “tackle” in Opa-Locka, Miami.

Hill became involved in Holywood films as a stuntman and archery expert and became a performing artist for movies.

Hill set a new world record in 1928 for the farthest flight shot at 358 meters with a bow and arrow.

He won his 196th archery win in field competition in the same year, in target shooting, hinting, and flight archery.

You’ll be surprised to know that Hill did actual longbow hunting and killed over 2,000 game animals.

He was the first white man to use a 41-inch long arrow and pulling a 115-pound bow to kill his celebrated 10,000-pound African bull elephant.

Awards

  • Birmingham 1971, Hill honored with Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
  • Springfield, Missouri 1972, Hill received with the Archery Hall of Fame.
  • Squaw Valley, California 1975, Hill named into the Bowhunters Hall of Fame.

10.  Horace A. Ford – UK

Horace A. Ford had only four years to pick up the bow in 1845 and won the Grand National Meeting in the United Kingdom. 

For over 70 years, he held the archery’s high mark record of 1271 points in the Double York Round.

Unmatched with his archery victory for eleven consecutive championships and a twelfth comeback win.

Ford had a powerful presence with a height of 6’ 2,” showing the opponents his strength, thoroughness, and nerve.

But he lacked grace and ease because of his unique and somewhat peculiar style that earned him consecutive wins.

In 1859 after eleven consecutive wins, Ford suffered from injured muscles in his drawing hand with his weakened health.

He practiced for the next years and only regained his comeback in 1867, to win the Grand National Meeting in Brighton.

Described as a champion who straddled the line and with a “practiced eye and cool judgment gave precision to his shafts, and gained for him the highest score made upon that occasion.”

He wrote the classic manual “Archery: Its Theory and Practice,” a reference source for modern archery.

He documented the shooting style and technique into a scientific pastime, whereas preciously referred to as playing bows and arrows.   

Awards

  • Birmingham 1858-1863, Ford won the Grand Archery Meeting. 
  • Hastings 1867, Ford won the Grand Archery Meeting.
  • Birmingham 1859, 1861, 1863, 1867, Ford won the Grand Crystal Palace Archery Meeting.
  • Leamington 1855,1856-58, 1860-63, 1867, 1868-69, Ford won the Grand Leamington and Midland Archery Meeting.
  • Leamington 1849-59, 1867, Ford won the Grand National Archery Meeting.
  • Weymouth 1863, 1868, Ford won the Grand Western Archery Meeting. 

Final Thoughts

Archery as a recreational or hunting sport is a tough and demanding one compared to other sports such as fencing, target shooting, or even golf.

It demands you to invest time in practice aiming at different ranges and different conditions so you can hit the target or the game animal.

You face athletes whose focus and skill are near perfection, and the dedication to win is so evident in how they train and live their lives.

Im Dong Hyun is considered blind can adapt to his eyes while using colors to aim his shot, proving that one’s handicap cannot derail talent and skill from a committed athlete.

The Korean Female archers led by Kim Soo Nyung have proven that Archery is not a male-exclusive sport and that many women stand out.

Michael Frangelli’s published book “The Heretic Archer” encourages fellow athletes to develop their training habits and styles to prove that the classic textbook rules aren’t the blueprint.

This list of some of the world’s most famous archers throughout history reflects upon their admirable traits of dedication, love of country, and sportsman’s ideals that are worth exemplifying.

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