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Olympics guide: Archery

Get down with Robin Hood and the gang

Olympics guide: Archery

If like us the full extent of your knowledge on Archery is derived from Robin Hood then take a look below. Bryan Adams is banned.

When? 5-12 August 2016

Golds up for grabs: 4

Olympic presence: 1900–20, 1972–present.

Olympic Format: There are four archery golds at stake, in individual and team competitions for men and women.

Past Champions: South Korea: 19 | USA : 14 | Belgium: 11


The Basics


The 1.2m diameter target is divided into ten concentric rings, with 1 point being awarded for hitting the outermost ring and 10 points for hitting the bullseye, which is just 12.2cm across. Arrows that land on a line score the higher of the two scores. Within the bullseye there’s a smaller ring called the x10. There are no additional points for hitting this, but in the event of a tie, the archer with the most x10s wins the contest. In all Olympic events, the archer stands 70m from the target, which from that range appears to competitors to be the size of the head of a carpet tack held at arm’s length.

Olympic Formats

The archer with the highest number of points wins – that much is straightforward. But the way the Olympic archery events are structured is quite complicated. Sixty-four archers take part in the individual competitions, which begin with the ranking round, in which contestants shoot 72 arrows (in 6 ends of 12 arrows), after which they are ranked by score from 1 to 64. In the elimination rounds, the 1st ranked archer competes against the 64th, the 2nd against the 63rd, and so on. Archers shoot simultaneously, firing 18 arrows in 6 ends of 3. In the quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches each archer shoots 12 arrows, in 4 ends of 3, but contestants shoot alternately, which makes for better drama. The losers of the semifinals play each other to determine the bronze medal. Each team in the team events consists of three archers who have competed in the individual competition. Their scores in the individual ranking round are added together to determine the team’s ranking score. Suitably seeded, teams play off in a series of knock-out matches, which consist of 24 arrows per team, shot in 4 ends of 6 arrows, with each member of the team firing twice per end.


As one would hope in a sport that uses lethal weaponry, etiquette and safety are high on archery’s agenda. Competitors must wait for the command to start and are not allowed to collect arrows while other people are shooting. If you hear someone shouting ‘Fast!’ it is not an attempt to increase the pace of shooting but to stop it. The call requires everyone to stop shooting immediately and return any unshot arrows to their quivers. Rather quaintly, archers are expected to offer to pay for any damage caused to a competitor’s equipment.

The Recurve Bow(pictured, below)

The defining feature of the modern Olympic bow has been in existence for more than three millennia. Called the recurve bow, it has tips that curve away from the archer when the bow is unstrung. This allows the bow, when tense, to store more energy than a straight-limbed bow of the same size. Today’s bows are made of complex layers of fibreglass, carbon and wood, with detachable limbs and all manner of additions and contraptions to aid stability and thus increase accuracy.

Bow Parts

Thumb ring A twanging bow string and flying arrow can rough up your fingers. Archers use these small leather flaps as protection. Clicker Archers try and achieve the same strength of draw every time they fire. The clicker is a small wire attached to the central part of the bow to help them with this. The clicker sits on the arrow as it is drawn back and drops off it when it has been pulled back the correct distance. Kisser Consistency is everything in archery. To ensure they get into the correct positions when drawing, competitors touch these little buttons placed on the strings to their faces or lips. Stabiliser Archers like their bows evenly balanced to fit their styles and postures. Stabilisers are rods of varying length and weight which are attached to bows to absorb vibration.

Extracted from How to Watch the Olympics by David Goldblatt & Johnny Acton (Profile Books)