TAN Ya-ting: Diligence could lead to her swansong

Tan Ya-ting of Chinese Taipei competes during the bronze medal final at the Tokyo 2020 test event in 2019. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Tan Ya-ting of Chinese Taipei competes during the bronze medal final at the Tokyo 2020 test event in 2019. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

The two-time Olympian from Chinese Taipei intends to beat the Koreans and has her eyes on a medal in individual recurve at Tokyo 2020

Chinese Taipei are set to light up the stage at Tokyo 2020 this year with a six-member archery squad (three men and three women) who made the quota last year.

The squad is expected to battle it out with powerhouses Republic of Korea, People’s Republic of China and Great Britain in what may become one of the greatest fights to the finish in the history of the sport.

With the lineup still to be finalised in the coming months, one person who may likely make the squad is world no 2 archer TAN Ya-ting.

With Republic of Korea still carrying the upper hand at the Olympic Games, two-time Olympian Tan is now plotting her strategy and tactics to beat them in the Tokyo 2020 Games if she is selected to represent Chinese Taipei.

“Sometimes I imagine the faces of these players, thinking about the experience of competing against them in the past. So during training, I have the opportunity to imagine that I'm competing with the Korean players,” she told Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo 2020 will also present another opportunity for the Rio bronze medallist to improve her game and aim for a career swansong for her third and final Olympic Games.

“Tokyo 2020 will be my last Olympic Games. I told myself not to care too much about the result. [I will] just to train hard for it and try to do my best at the Games. I want to see if I can do better this time than last time.”

Women’s archery

Tan might just make her Olympic dream a reality given the trajectory of her career to date. In 2019, she, along with LEI Chien-ying and PENG Chia-mao of the women’s recurve team, delivered Chinese Taipei’s first gold medal at the World Championships against Republic of Korea and Great Britain.

“I was very excited at the time and felt that we had done it as a team,” the athlete said, describing that moment.

“When we finished and won, we were jumping up and down with joy because the training before the race was really tough. After practising all day, you don't want to do anything at night, you just go back to your room and sleep and wait for tomorrow's training, so we think it's really worth all the effort.”

Thanks to the success of the women’s team in the sport, it seems to be growing in popularity in Chinese Taipei, with girls now taking an active interest in participation.

“I think there are more and more people practising archery in [Chinese Taipei], and more girls are in this game. There has been an annual archery corporate league since 2019, and because the archery association has been working very hard to promote the sport, more people can have access to archery,” she said.

Now there's all the more reason for young girls in Chinese Taipei to be inspired about taking up archery with a full women’s squad going to Tokyo 2020.

Tan is confident that whatever the final lineup, it is important for the three female archers to get to know each other during this process and in the lead up to Tokyo.

“We have to get to know each other first during the training process. When a teammate encounters a setback, or when she feels that she is not in a good position after a long day of training, or when she keeps blaming herself, we need to think how to help her, and encourage each other as teammates.”

Le Chien-Ying, Lin Shih-Chia, and Tan Ya-Ting of Chinese Taipei celebrate with their coach after winning the Bronze medal match against Italy at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Le Chien-Ying, Lin Shih-Chia, and Tan Ya-Ting of Chinese Taipei celebrate with their coach after winning the Bronze medal match against Italy at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

A new start

The postponement of the Olympic Games and subsequent cancellation of competitions brought many challenges.

“Because of the pandemic, all the competitions were postponed, and we could not attend the international competitions. I could not accept the reality in the beginning,” Tan said.

“But at the same time, my performance last year was not that good. Although I said that I have been mentally prepared for the Games, my performance hasn’t been very stable. So I had to adjust my training schedule, including my own thoughts and expectations towards the Games. So the postponement is not necessarily a bad thing for me. It’s like a new start,” she added.

One other thing that was affected was the team selection for Tokyo 2020. A team had been already announced last year, but due to the postponement of the Games, the National Federation had to revise regulations and timelines for team member selection, which will be finalised before the Games.

However, even whilst waiting for the announcement, Tan and the national team have been able to continue their preparations for Tokyo 2020 in a relatively normal way as Chinese Taipei is one of the few countries in the world that has been able to control the spread of COVID-19.

While other athletes have to train in strict lockdown or bubbles, Tan is allowed to train outdoors and enjoy it too.

“We have technical training and physical training, and then occasionally the coach would ask us to go hiking on the weekends, which I think is mainly a relaxing experience for the mind.”

Archery is a mental sport – so Tan also takes the time to do mental training and study her performances.

“I’d go through the training in my head and compare it to the goals I have set for myself to see if I am getting closer to the goal day by day. Sometimes I write down how my training goes and the plan for tomorrow."

“Sometimes when I get stuck and don't know what to do, I'll look back at videos from previous years when I was competing well and see how I was doing at that time. I’d also review my mindset and motivation back then, then ask myself 'now I'm in a slump, what should I do?'”

Tokyo 2020 at her fingertips

If it wasn't for the fact she persistently strives for excellence, Tan would not have achieved the world no 2 status that she is enjoying today. But she still has a desire to be at the top.

“Actually I don't think too much about my ranking. I may be ranked second in the world, I will hope that one day I can also be the same as the first ranked person in the world, I can also stand in that position."

“I will tell myself that this is not a pressure, but that this is a motivation, and there is [someone occupying] first place in front of me for which I hope to follow the example of, and then I hope that I can do the same with her in the future.”

As Tan prepares for Tokyo and aims for the top of the podium, she must first overcome her fiercest rival: herself

“I think the biggest rival is myself. Personally, I think my strong point is that I'm not afraid of the game, but my weak point is that I'm not confident enough to face the game sometimes."

“I think it's important to be confident, but you also have to accept that you can be very good or very bad.”

Tan Ya-Ting Tan of Chinese Taipei celebrates winning the bronze medal final against Yichai Zheng of China during the Tokyo 2020 test event at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field in 2019. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Tan Ya-Ting Tan of Chinese Taipei celebrates winning the bronze medal final against Yichai Zheng of China during the Tokyo 2020 test event at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field in 2019. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

For Tokyo 2020, Tan, who won bronze in women’s event in Rio 2016, is now focussed on securing a medal in the individual recurve event.

“After Rio 2016, I was already thinking that I could almost retire if I got a medal. But because I thought it was a pity that I failed to get a medal at individual event, I wanted to prepare again and see if I could live up to my expectations next time.”

“I hope I could get a medal at the individual event. Last time in Rio I was really close, but I missed the chance because of the weather and the adjustment on site was not that good. So I would like to take the challenge for the third time,” the 27-year-old athlete added.

But beyond Tokyo 2020, Tan is already laying down her future plans and may step back from archery altogether.

“After retirement, I want to open a nail salon because I'm actually quite interested in nail art, so I hope to learn about it and then open my own salon in the future. Since I have friends who are learning nail art, I will ask them for advice and watch nail art videos online.”

“Archery may be one of my specialities, but I hope I can also find a second, or even a third, speciality. I hope I can learn more than just archery in my life, I hope I can broaden my horizons.”

Watch Tan Ya-ting in action along with the best archers in the world from 23 to 31 July at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field.