archery London 2012 Olympics
Archery competition.

Previewing the Sports You Know Nothing About: Archery

There's more here than meets the, um, bullseye

archery London 2012 Olympics
Ryan O'Hanlon

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You shoot an arrow at a target—the closer to the middle, the higher the score. Like lethal, high-powered darts, or something. There’s a team and an individual competition for both men and women. Medal dates are July 28 (men’s team), July 29 (women’s team), August 2 (women’s individual), and August 3 (men’s individual). The target is divided into 10 zones (worth from 1-10 points), and all archers shoot from 76.5 yards away. After a preliminary stage, the archers face off in a one-on-one knockout competition, with five sets of three arrows. A set win is worth two points, and a draw is worth one. The first to six advances. For the team competition, each team of three shoots 24 arrows in four sets of six, with each member shooting twice.

Modern archery—when competition and equipment was standardized—began in 1972, although the event debuted at the Olympics in 1900 and then went on hiatus for about 50 years. Since 1972, South Korea has dominated the competition, winning 30 medals and 16 golds. The United States comes in at a distant second with 16 medals and eight golds. No other country has more than one gold or seven total medals.

Possibly a 26-year-old, legally blind dude from South Korea, actually. Im Dong-Hyun sees horribly (no better than 20/100 vision in either eye, say reports), but he won the 2007 World Championship and is currently ranked second in the world. A pair of other South Koreans have won the past two World Championships, so they look a decent bet to win what would somehow be the country’s first-ever individual men’s archery gold. South Korea is the favorite in both the men’s and women’s team competitions, although Italy won the 2011 women’s World Championship. Denisse Van Lamoen, Chile’s flag bearer, is the defending women’s world champ, but 18-year-old Deepike Kumari of India is currently ranked number-one in the world.

The U.S. men haven’t won an individual or a team medal since 2000. That should change, though, as 23-year-old Brady Ellison is currently the top-ranked archer in the world, after surpassing Im for the number-one spot. Ellison’s only lost two matches in 2011 and is maybe the favorite for gold. He also has a goatee and occasionally uses a pink, breast-cancer bow, most likely making him the only person in the world able to claim both of those things. The men’s team is expected to medal, while the women probably have an outside shot at a team medal, but would need to pick up a couple of consecutive major upsets to grab any individual medals.

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