Archery for men was an event for the first time in the modern Olympics in 1900. The first archery event for women was in 1904. However, there was no uniformity in the rules in those early Olympics and archery was dropped as an event after 1920. The international governing body for archery, the Federation Internationale de Tira l’Arc (FITA), was founded in 1931. It took many years before all countries accepted the new international rules for competition, but archery was able to return as an Olympic sport to the 1972 Munich Games. In 1988, team competitions were held in addition to the individual events.
Since 1992, the event format is head-to-head competition for the top 64 athletes. There are four archery events: Men’s Individual, Women’s Individual, Men’s Team and Women’s Team.
Individual competitors (men and women) shoot 72 arrows at a ‘bulls-eye’ target from a distance of 70 meters (229 feet, 8 inches). Each shot must be made within a 40-second time limit. A perfect score would be 720. A ‘sudden death’ overtime shot is made in the event of a tie.
Team competitions consist of 16 3-archer teams. As in the individual events, each archer shoots 72 arrows are shot at a distance of 70 meters. In a tie score, each team member will shoot one arrow. The arrow closest to the center of the target determines the winner.
The target has ten rings. One point is scored for an arrow landing in the outermost ring, 2 points for a hit in the next ring, continuing in this manner to the center ring which awards 10 points.
The recurve bow is used by Olympic Archers. An arrow shot by this bow travels at more than 150 mph. The bows are very ‘high-tech’, manufactured from wood, fiberglass and graphite. They have stabilizers which help keep the arrow flights straight and sights to help in aiming. The strings are made from a hydrocarbon product or from Kevlar. The arrows are aluminum or carbon graphite. The cost of this gear is over $1,000.
An Olympic archer has normally been training for at least ten years. It’s essential to develop perfect form (or as close to perfect as humanly possible). A good coach is also very important. The proper equipment, of course, is needed. Fortunately, archery is much less expensive to pursue than many other sports. Read, study, talk to other archers. Attend and compete in local and national tournaments. Most important, practice, practice, practice.
Archery is a sport accessible to many disabled athletes. A New Zealand woman, Neroli Fairhall, was the first paraplegic to compete in the Olympic Games. She was a gold medalist in the Commonwealth Games. This is also a sport that people can continue with for much of their lives and enjoy with their families. Hope to see you at the Olympics!