Archery could be the breakout niche sport of these Olympics, much like curling at every Winter Games. Why? The Hunger Games. The movie and book blockbuster put the sport in the entertainment spotlight, and, who knows, it could very well carry over.
SPORTS EXPLAINERS: ARCHERY
The medal rounds take place earlier in the day than swimming finals, giving it a window of opportunity to gain attention.
Im Dong-hyun, South Korea: Keen eyesight is vital to an archer's success, but Im has, at best, poor vision. He reportedly sees 20/100 out of his right eye and 20/200 out of his left (legal blindness is 20/200 or worse out of the better eye with corrective lenses). Im refuses to wear glasses. "I am not myopic, I am far-sighted," he told The Telegraph. Im was part of South Korean team golds in 2004 and 2008, but the nation has never won an individual gold despite having the most medals since the sport was reintroduced in 1972. Im won the world title in 2007, though other countrymen swiped the crown in 2009 and 2011.
Deepika Kumari, India: The world's second most populous nation has seen an Olympic resurgence of late -- its total of three medals in 2008 was its most ever, including its first individual gold -- and Kumari is a great representation of its rise. She's just 18, but she's ranked No. 1 in the world and is likely to win India's first Olympic medal in the sport. Kumari owns two youth world titles, a Commonwealth Games title and claimed gold in her most recent World Cup event.
The U.S. is one of 10 countries to have the maximum number of archers -- six -- and should win its first medal(s) since 2000. Of the Americans, Khatuna Lorig picked up the most press this year for her role in The Hunger Games, teaching Jennifer Lawrence how to use the bow and arrow. Lorig was born in Georgia -- the country, not the state -- and competed for the Unified Team in 1992 (winning a bronze), Georgia in 1996 and 2000 and the U.S. in 2008. She's joined by Miranda Leek and Jennifer Nichols, all ranked in the top 21 in the world. Archery powers South Korea and China are the only other countries that boast three women in the top 21, giving the U.S. women a real shot to medal in the team event, which it hasn't done since 1988. The men are led by world No. 1 Brady Ellison, who was 27th in Beijing at age 19. He's matured and won three of four World Cup events in 2011 and bronze at last year's world championships. Ellison is joined by Jake Kaminski and Jacob Wukie. The men's team has won three events in the last year and is perhaps the silver-medal favorite behind the mighty South Koreans.
Im Dong-hyun vs. Brady Ellison
A spokesman for the World Archery Federation compared this rivalry to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Im is Federer, the 26-year-old veteran. Ellison is Nadal, the 23-year-old who surpassed Im for the No. 1 ranking (though maybe Ellison should now be Novak Djokovic). Ellison has won their last four meetings after Im won their first match before the 2008 Olympics.
Ki Bo Bae, South Korea vs. Lee Sung-Jin, South Korea
Kumari may be No. 1, but the fight for women's gold could be between these two countrywomen. Ki is ranked No. 2, while Lee is No. 27. Lee's ranking slid as she fought a shoulder injury, but she is the more experienced, having won individual Olympic silver in 2004. Ki, 24, has yet to win a major event. She'll be under enormous pressure to deliver in London, competing for a country that so closely scrutinizes its sports stars.
Rand Saad Al-Mashhadani is the first Iraqi woman to qualify for Olympic archery. An Iraqi man qualified in 2008 but did not participate. She moved to Bangkok in May for better training, aiming to make the minimum qualifying standard. She did so in June, scoring 619 points when she needed 600. She is ranked No. 270 in the world, but she's slated to go to the Games at age 17.
The Korean women have won every team gold since the event was added to the Olympic program in 1988. They're 11-1 against their closest competitor, China, in major events since 2006. ... Great Britain's coach is Lloyd Brown, who coached the U.S. to individual and team gold in 1996. ... The United States coach is a South Korean, Kisik Lee, who may just have taught Ellison enough to overtake the South Koreans in London.
July 28: Men's Team
July 29: Women's Team
Aug. 2: Women's Individual
Aug. 3: Men's Individual