TOKYO (REUTERS) – An San kept South Korea’s Olympic flag flying in women’s archery on Friday (July 30) as she took the individual title, brushing off online criticism of her hairstyle to become the first archer to win three golds at a single Games.

Top-seeded An held her nerve as both her final and semi-final went to shoot-offs, downing Elena Osipova of the Russian Olympic Committee to take gold. Italy’s Lucilla Boari won bronze.

The 20-year-old South Korean, already a double-gold-medallist in the women’s and mixed teams events, became a target for online hostility at home after cutting her hair short, a look labelled “feminist” by some social media users.

That term has become associated with a rise in misogynist sentiment among South Korean young men.

In her the semi-final, An beat American Mackenzie Brown – herself subject to criticism on social media for choosing to compete unvaccinated against Covid-19.

An’s win, celebrated to K-pop band BTS’s song “Permission to Dance”, came after a mostly disappointing individual competition by her teammates.

Traditionally dominant in the sport, South Korea’s women’s team gold was their ninth in succession in the event, equalling the overall Olympic record.

An’s women’s squad teammate, Kang Chae-young, was unexpectedly knocked out on Friday at the quarter final stage.

“I thought I shot good, but not many arrows hit 10s,” a tearful Kang, seeded three, said after falling to Osipova, the 22nd seed.

Kang said she was aware of the criticism of An’s hair, adding that the team was ignoring it to maintain focus on their matches.

Apart from An, the only other archer still in contention left standing among the six South Korean who entered the individual events is Kim Woo-jin from the men’s team, who will shoot on Saturday.

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