Rio Olympics: Become an instant expert at archery

Archery has evolved from a tool for hunting and warfare into one of the legacy sports at the Olympics. The sport requires mental and physical endurance as well as accuracy and focus. Here's everything you need to know to instantly become an archery expert.

Connect with your inner Katniss with these helpful insights

Canadian archer Crispin Duenas prepares for his third Olympic appearance. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Archery has evolved from a tool for hunting and warfare into one of the legacy sports at the Olympics. The sport, originally contested at the 1902 Games, requires mental and physical endurance as well as accuracy and focus.

Here's everything you need to know to instantly become an archery expert:

History and format

  • Reintroduced in 1972.
  • Current format (70-metre men's and women's individual and team events) in place since 1996.
  • Individual setup: 64 archers, single-elimination bracket, bronze-medal match for semifinal losers, highest versus lowest matchups (No. 1 vs. No. 64, No. 2 vs. No. 63, etc.).
  • Team setup: Teams of three, 12 teams, single-elimination bracket, top-four ranked teams get automatic berths in quarter-finals, bronze-medal match for semifinal losers.

How the events work

  • Head-to-head sets, three arrows per set
  • Highest score gets two points, draw earns each archer one point
  • First to six points wins and advances
  • If tied after five sets, single-arrow shoot-off with closest to the centre winning ("Robin Hood" rules)

The girl on fire

One of the biggest contributors to the recent growth of archery participation has been the Hunger Games movie series.

"I really appreciate The Hunger Games for the promotion in our membership with USA Archery," says American archer Mackenzie Brown. "It's gone up at least 20 per cent."

Jennifer Lawrence, who played Katniss Everdeen, learned how to shoot for the movies from Khatuna Lorig, an Olympic veteran who earned gold and bronze medals at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.

What do they wear/use?

Recurve bows are used in Olympic competition. These bows are fitted with stabilizer rods and sighting accessories to assist with accuracy and balance.

Arrows between 5.5 and 9.3 millimetres in diametre are used. Arm and chest guards are worn for protection by archers. Caps with feathers are no longer required.

Archers have a special relationship with their bows. Canadian Olympian Crispin Duenas explains this bond below.

GEAR it up with archer Crispin Duenas

7 years ago
Duration 0:47
Two-time Olympian in archery Crispin Duenas breaks down the relationship between his bow and himself.

Nocking points

Katniss is only one of several fictional characters famous for their skill with a bow and arrows:

  • Robin Hood — Folk hero whose prowess with a bow made him the scourge of Nottingham
  • Green Arrow — Superhero portrayed by Canadian actor Stephen Amell on the TV show Arrow
  • Legolas — Elven archer from The Lord of the Rings books and movies
  • Merida — Pixar's tough-as-nails Scottish princess
  • Hawkeye — Arrow-shooting Avenger in Marvel's cinematic universe
  • Sterling Archer — World's greatest cartoon secret agent, no archery connection beyond his name

Brown doesn't mind the comparisons as long as they help grow the sport.

Mackenzie Brown on Robin Hood and Katniss Everdeen

7 years ago
Duration 0:19
U.S. Olympic archer Mackenzie Brown is fine with the comparisons to famous fictional archers, as long as it helps grow her sport.


Let's get back to the Olympics.

  • South Korea dominates the men's and women's rankings
  • Won four medals at 2012 Olympics in London, including three gold
  • Four women, three men in respective top-10 rankings

Canada's best hope in the men's event is Duenas. The man they call the Black Duck is a two-time Olympian and is the No.15 archer in the world.

Duenas also has a connection to cinematic archery through Hoyt, the company he currently shoots for.

Crispin Duenas on Hunger Games 2

7 years ago
Duration 0:47
Olympic archer Crispin Duenas explains his connection to the Hunger Games movie franchise.

In the women's individual event, Georcy-Stéphanie Thiffeault Picard qualified for the Games on May 9. The 25-year-old from Montreal will make her Olympic debut after securing a berth at the continental qualifiers in Medellín, Colombia.

Secrets to sounding smart

Want to impress your friends? Learn these five facts and you'll be sure to win the quest for the Golden Arrow:

  • The feathers on the ends of arrows, known as the fletching, help them fly straight, and also make them look cool.
  • Only recurve bows are used in Olympic competition. World Archery, the sport's governing body, also has events for compound bows.
  • To get the best score possible, a tight grouping of arrows near the centre ring is critical.
  • Steady breathing and focus is key, but drag from the wind can affect the bow.
  • Robin Hood may be fictional, but the Robin Hood shot, where you split an arrow already on the target, is very real and very difficult.

Now you're ready to enjoy some Olympic archery!


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