Archery demands immense reserves of skill and concentration to shoot arrows at targets positioned 70 metres away with unerring accuracy.
The object of archery is simple: to shoot arrows as close to the centre of a target as possible. Olympic Archery targets are 122 centimetres in diameter with a series of ten concentric scoring rings, separated into five colours. The inner colour, the gold, scores ten or nine points. (The ‘ten’ measures just 12.2 cm in diameter – about the size of a music CD.) The red scores eight or seven points, blue six or five points, black four or three points, white two or one point. Archers shoot at the target from a distance of 70 metres – a longer distance than the length of an Olympic swimming pool.
It goes without saying that this task demands considerable skill, but the sport is also one where the slightest distraction can lead to a mistake, making mental strength the key to victory. The best competitors can shoot with extraordinary accuracy while maintaining their focus in the most stressful situations.
Archery dates back around 10,000 years, when bows and arrows were first used for hunting and warfare, before it developed as a competitive activity in medieval England. There are several variants, including target archery, where competitors shoot at stationary targets on a flat range; and field archery, which involves shooting at targets of varying and often unmarked distance, typically in woodland and rough terrain. Only target archery is an Olympic sport, practised in more than 140 countries around the world.
Archery made its Olympic debut at Paris 1900, was dropped from the programme after the 1908 Games, and then returned for a single appearance in 1920. After a 52-year gap, the sport was reintroduced at Munich 1972 and has remained on the Olympic programme ever since. At Tokyo 2020, athletes will compete in men's and women's individual events, and men's, women's and mixed team events – the last of these a new addition to the Olympic programme.
International Federation:World Archery Federation
- Individual competition (Men/Women)
- Team competition (Men/Women)
- Mixed Team
Coping with the mental pressure
First, 64 athletes participate in a preliminary competition that is known as the ranking round. Each competitor takes 72 shots before being ranked from first to 64th based on their total scores. They then compete in pairs based on their rankings, with the first-ranked archer facing off against the 64th-ranked archer, the second-ranked against the 63rd-ranked, and so on.
These individual elimination matches see the loser leave the competition and the winner advance to the next phase, until two athletes remain to contest the gold medal match. The two semi-final losers compete for bronze.
Individual matches are decided using a set system. Each set consists of three arrows. The athlete with the highest score in the set – the total of their three arrows – receives two set points. If the athletes are tied, each receives one set point. The first athlete to six set points wins the match.
If there is a tie after five sets (with a scoreline of 5-5), each athlete shoots a single arrow. The athlete whose arrow lands closest to the middle of the target wins the match.
Team matches are also decided using the set system, but each set consists of six arrows rather than three. The first team to five set points wins the match.
If there is a tie after four sets (with a scoreline of 4-4), each athlete in each team shoots a single arrow, alternately. The team that has an arrow closest to the middle wins the match.
These formats create a series of win-or-lose situations, which are as much mental as physical. Before releasing each arrow, archers must calm their heart rate, increase their concentration and overcome their nerves. The physical and emotional tension inspires some archers to perform at their best while others struggle in the face of the unforgiving pressure.
Shooting for gold
South Korea is the dominant force in Olympic archery. Its athletes won gold in all four events staged at Rio 2016 while its women's team has, remarkably, been unbeaten in Olympic competition since Seoul 1988.
Among its leading athletes is Ki Bo Bae, who won team and individual gold at London 2012 and team gold and individual bronze at Rio 2016.
In men's archery, the USA is the next best-performing country after South Korea. Brady Ellison won the bronze medal in the men's individual event at Rio 2016 and team silver at both Rio 2016 and London 2012.
Most archers shoot right-handed if they are naturally right-handed, and left-handed if they're naturally left-handed. However, some right-handed archers shoot left-handed. Why?Answer
A:This is because their left eye is their ‘dominant eye’.
Approximately 70 per cent of people have an eye dominance that matches their handedness (for example, right eye dominant, right hand dominant). Among the other 30 per cent are right-handed archers who shoot left-handed so that they can use their stronger left eye (or vice-versa).
- Yumenoshima Park Archery Field