Get Involved: ARCHERY

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Archery explained (Part one)

From William the Conqueror to William Tell, archery has held an enduring popularity that far outstrips its standing as a minority sport.

The competition will be even more enthralling in London as governing body, Fita, has implemented a new scoring system.

Previously, one bad shot could leave an archer too far behind his opponent, but the introduction of a best-of-three or five sets format means more matches will be contested until the last arrow.

Archers in the Olympics have to hit a target the size of a beermat from a distance of seven bus lengths. Such accuracy is needed to score maximum points, in the 'gold' ring (diameter 12.2cm) - never call it the bullseye!

There are eight million archers worldwide, but it is South Korea who dominate the sport. Their archers have topped the medal table at each of the last seven Olympic Games, winning 16 golds.

Why is it good for you?

As archery does not require mobility it is open to a wide range of people, with the gold medal in the 1904 Olympics won by 64-year-old American Galen Carter Spencer.

The strain in competition of pulling a weight of up to 50lb around 100 times burns about 313 calories an hour and helps improve cardiovascular fitness and core strength.

There are more than 34,000 members of Archery GB and archery clubs offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

Get involved

Anyone interested in taking part can contact their local club by using Archery GB's club finder. With more than 1,100 clubs, one will not be too far away.

For those just beginning their training, many clubs provide basic equipment for hire or, on occasion, for free. Specialist archery shops also offer advice on what equipment to purchase and often provide a rental service.

Some clubs specialise in particular types of archery such as 'Target' or 'Field,' and many have access to indoor facilities over the winter season for practising and shooting in competition at closer distances.

Those looking for a more informal experience should head to the many 'have a go' archery events at activity centres, holiday parks, game fairs, outdoor shows and tourist attractions across the United Kingdom.

Archery GB is organising an Archery Big Weekend on 25, 26 and 27 August, where free taster sessions will be put on throughout England.

Further information about the sport can be found on the English Archery Federation,Welsh Archery Federation,Scottish Archery Association and Northern Ireland Archery Society websites. For more details, have a look at Archery GB's Beginner's Guide.

More on the Archery GB website

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport' aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved. And as well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an event near you.

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Friday 27 July to Friday 3 August, 128 athletes (64 men, 64 women) will be competing at Lord's Cricket Ground.
  • There are four knockout medal events, individual and team for both men and women, with 128 archers taking part.
  • A ranking round is held before each event to determine seedings, in which athletes shoot 72 arrows in 12 phases (called an 'end') of six arrows each. The athlete with the highest cumulative score is ranked first and faces the athlete with the lowest cumulative score who is ranked last, and so on, in the opening round.
  • Matches will be played over the best of five sets, with each set consisting of three arrows per archer (called an 'end').
  • The men's and women's team competitions feature teams of three competing in a best-of-24-arrows format.
  • The winners of the semi-finals in the team and individual events play for gold, with the losers playing for bronze.

More on the London 2012 website

The rules at London 2012

In the individual event, archers shoot in an alternate format and have 20 seconds per arrow, with the highest total score taking the set. There are 10 scoring rings on the board, with point values increasing from one to 10 as they move into the centre.

The athlete with the highest score per set gets two set points, with a draw seeing the set points shared. As soon as a person reaches six set points in a five-set match they are declared the winner.

In the event of a 5-5 tie, the match goes to sudden death - both archers shoot one arrow each, with the arrow closest to the centre taking the match.

In the team event, each nation has three archers shooting 24 arrows (eight per archer) and the highest cumulative score winning. Each team shoots four sets of six arrows (two arrows per archer), with up to two minutes allotted for each set.

If the scores are tied, each team will shoot three arrows (one per archer), with the highest scoring team taking the victory. If the scores remain tied, the match will be won by the team with the closest arrow to the centre.

There are a number of penalties for infractions, with one of the most common seeing a red card issued if an archer takes a shot outside the allotted time. In this case, they will lose the value of the highest scoring arrow in that end.

More on the Team GB website

Ones to watch

A medal is not out of the question for Team GB, with the team events probably the best bet. Alison Williamson, in her sixth Olympics, leads the women's team, while Simon Terry was an individual and team medallist 20 years ago.

South Korea are the dominant nation, with the women led by Ki Bo Bae and the men, amazingly, by legally blind world record holder Im Dong-Hyun. American Brady Ellison and 18-year-old world junior champion Deepika Kumari are also likely to figure strongly.


Archery is one of the oldest sports in the world, with records of competitions dating back to the Egyptian pharaohs and Chinese Zhou dynasty well over 3,000 years ago.

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Archery explained (Part two)

Back in 1363, a royal decree required all Englishmen over the age of seven to practice on Sundays and holidays, such was the importance attached to the bow and arrow by the English army.

In modern times, The Lord of the Rings trilogy prompted a 10% increase in UK archery club members.

The power of the big screen transferred to television at the last Olympics, when archery's average viewing audience was in the top 10 of the 28 sports.

The sport first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1900, was contested again in 1904, 1908 and 1920, and then returned after an absence of 52 years in 1972.

Archer Neroli Fairhall of New Zealand was the first paraplegic to compete at an Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.

More on the IOC website

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