SPG Archery - Only the fittest will survive
On the eve of the commencement of SPG Archery, here is a brief guide to the different events and bows, and some things to look out for.
Archery at the Games is divided into 3 main competitions, with each of these divided between competitors using the recurve bow and those using the compound bow.
In the early stages of the competition, on days one and two (Wednesday 29th August and Thursday 30th August 2007) the FITA rounds will be held. This individual competition will be a rigorous test of who can hold their concentration and form over a whole day. Each competitor will shoot 144 arrows over 4 distances on day one, and on day two, 90 arrows over 3 distances. Scoring is cumulative each day, which means that consistency over the long period of play is the only guarantee of success. Carole Hicks, President of the Oceania Archery Confederation describes this type of competition as a "survival of the fittest" due to the demanding schedule each day, which will be even more challenging during the heat of the day.
The team matchplay event will take place on day 3 (Friday 31th August 2007).
The highlight of the event for many is the individual matchplay, to take place on the fourth and final day (Saturday 1st September 2007). Particularly for those who have not had a chance to enjoy the earlier stages of competition, the matchplay represents a day of high drama and tension. Like in tennis, individual archers are ranked in different categories. Two people per target are matched together in a one on one battle over twelve arrows. With only the person who scores the higher score moving on to the next round, it is what other sports might call "a sudden death shootout". The excitement rises in the medal round, where each competitor, undefeated until this round, has 30 seconds to shoot 1 arrow each on their separate target. The lead is expected change regularly, and as an announcer calls the score of each arrow, each competitor must press on knowing that a single arrow off target could spell the difference between gold and bronze. Many sports in the SPG will hope for such a dramatic showdown; in archery, it is practically assured.
There are two types of bow used in the Games: the recurve and the compound. Each of the events will be separated into two categories according to the type of bow, representing the different capabilities of each bow.
The recurve bow is the only type of bow currently used in Olympic competition. It is of a traditional shape, with a single string held taut between the tips of the bow. An advantage of the recurve bow is that the very basic bow is cheap enough to be used in smaller, developing countries, and as such it represents an opportunity for more people to participate in archery. However the bows to be used in the Games are neither cheap nor basic, representing the cumulation of advances in bow technology over the centuries.
Says Ms Hicks "The recurve bow was inherited from the bows of Robin Hood, although were he around today he probably would not recognise it!"
"A difference in quality of recurve bows can," says Ms Hicks "to a degree be compensated for by technique; however all other things being equal a better quality bow will result in a better performance."
A newcomer to archery may be more curious about the appearance of a compound bow. This much more recent invention relies more heavily on engineering, with a series of pulleys making it appear that the string is doubled-up. A further difference is the use of a special arrow release held in the archer's release-hand, and the availability of a spirit-level, both of which being outlawed in recurve bow events. This additional technology allows archers to generally obtain higher scores more quickly using a compound bow rather than a recurve bow. In addition, a person may use the same compound bow for a longer period of their career, as the tension in the bow (measured in pounds, also known as 'poundage') can be mechanically increased and decreased according to the strength and condition of the archer. In a recurve bow, such adjustments require the replacement of components of the bow.
However the availability of the two different bows is seen as an advantage for archery overall. Says Ms Hicks, "Each type of bow will appeal to a different person, meaning ultimately that more people will get involved in the sport." Armed with a little knowledge about the sport and strong nerves, the public can expect to be entertained and thrilled by the modern incarnation of this ancient sport.