Coming off an Olympic Games in which it averaged 1.5 million viewers on NBC—it was the most popular sport that aired during the first few days of the Games—archery drew a crowd unprecedented in previous years and will be looking to do so again in Rio. In part, the spike in viewers could be attributed to the younger demographic’s fascination with Katniss Everdeen’s archery abilities in the “Hunger Games.”
In archery, the aim of the game is widely understood: shooting the arrow as close to the center of the bullseye as possible. Yet, what’s less understood is the fact that this is made slightly more difficult when the target is 70m away. Ranging from a score of 1 to 10 – 10 being the perfect score – according to how close the arrow hits to the inner circle, an Olympic archer is given six arrows, and has 40 seconds to shoot each of them. However, when it comes down to the finals, the archer has 20 seconds to shoot three arrows. Archers with the top scores after five series of three arrows go through to the next round in individual events. In team events, the best teams after four series of six arrows go through to the next round.
In 2012, South Korea was the team to beat, as it’s been a threat since the 1988 Games, which were held in Seoul. That same year was when the Olympic archery program expanded by adding a men’s and women’s team event in addition to the individual events. Since ’88, Korea has taken an impressive 18 gold medals and 32 overall. After taking the podium four times in London, which included three golds, Korea will remain a dominant force in Rio.
This year, archery, one of the oldest sports in the Olympics, will take place at Sambódromo, known for hosting Brazil’s famous Carnival Samba Parade.
Athletes to watch
Ki, the reigning World Archery champion and 2012 women’s individual gold medal winner, will be the only competitor returning from the winning 2012 Korean Olympic team. She’ll be joined by Choi Mi-sun and Chang Hye-Jin for the team event, and the squad is one to watch, as Korea has won every women’s team competition since 1988 when the event was introduced. However, each Korean competitor has an equal shot at standing on the podium in the individual events.
U.S. men’s team
In the men’s team event, the U.S. have another chance at medaling with its squad made up of Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski and Zach Garrett. Ellison and Kaminski were part of the 2012 team that won silver in London, and 21 year-old Garrett, ranked third in the world, will be making his Olympic debut. At the 2016 Shanghai World Cup, Garrett took silver in the individual competition, making him a medal contender in Rio, while also taking bronze at the 2016 Antalya World Cup (stage 3 of the World Cup). Ellison and Garrett both have shots at medaling in the men’s individual event as well. For the women, Mackenzie Brown will be the lone competitor, as she was the only woman to qualify. Brown, 21, won the women’s competition at trials and will be competing in her first Olympic Games in Rio.
Ksenia Perova / Russia’s women’s team
While it did not medal in the London 2012 Olympics, Russia may also have a chance at getting on the podium in the archery team event. (In the wake of the doping scandal, the entire Russian archery team has been cleared to compete in Rio.) Ranked fifth in the world, Ksenia Perova could help deliver for Russia after helping the No. 2 ranked women’s team to its 2015 world championship title in Copenhagen, while she also won silver in the individual women’s event at the 2016 Antalya World Cup, making her a medal prospect in Rio. In the team event, Perova will be joined by Tulana Dashidorzhieva and Inna Stepanova, ranked 11th and 47th, respectively. While Russia may not be a consistent medal winner in archery, don’t be surprised if you see Perova vying for a medal.
China men’s and women’s team
However, China, which has won six archery medals since the 2004 Athens Olympics could also pose a threat. The men’s team is made up of Xuesong Gu, Dapeng Wang, and Xing Yu—the only returner from the 2012 team—while the women’s team is comprised of Cao Hui, Yuhong Gi, and Jiaxin Wu. In London, the women’s team took second to win silver, and while the women’s team is ranked No. 6 in the world, it might be the No. 3-ranked men’s team this year that comes out as a medal winner.
Men’s team—Aug. 6
Women’s team—Aug. 7
Women’s individual—Aug. 11
Men’s individual—Aug. 12