The countdown to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is in double digits, and athletes and fans alike are gearing up for the competition.
As usual, the world will come together to celebrate the athletes, coaches, competitions and pageantry that comprise the Olympics. Variety reports that NBC Sports expects over 20 million viewers each evening to watch the spectacle’s gymnasts, swimmers, cyclers and – yes – archers.
Olympic archery has come far since its inception at the Paris 1900 Games. At one point, archery was removed from the Games, but has been a mainstay since its 1972 return. Now, four years out from the 2012 games, archery is aiming for back-to-back gold as the “most-watched Olympic sport.”
Here are 11 things you should know about one of the Games’ most-anticipated sports.
1. Olympic archers once arrowed pigeons.
At least that’s what John Bantleman of Business 2 Community said. Perhaps he was confused. According to World Archery, the sport’s international governing body, when archery was introduced to the Olympics in 1900, archers competed in the popinjay competition. The object was to shoot a “bird” from atop a pole. The bird, however, was simply a plastic tube with feathers. Not a real bird.
Shotgunners, however, did shoot live pigeons in the Paris 1900 Games.
2. Aside from the occasional bird catastrophe (kidding!), archery is one of the safest sports.
According to the National Safety Council (it does exist), archery is more than three times safer than golf, with just one injury for every 2,000 participants. USA Archery reports that the sport is even safer than bowling.
3. Arrows in competition fly 2.5 times faster than a sprinting cheetah.
4. From the shooting line, the Olympic bull’s-eye appears as small as a thumbtack held at arm’s length.
The innermost circle on an Olympic-style 10-ring target measures about 12.2 centimeters across. That’s roughly the size of a CD or grapefruit. Now add three-quarters of a football field between you and the target. Oh yeah: You can’t use any sort of magnification. How’s it look now? Pretty danged small! Yet somehow they make it look so easy.
5. Team USA Olympic hopeful Brady Ellison is sitting on top of the world.
No, really. Ellison currently ranks No. 2, and holds the third-highest World Cup score in history. Plus, he won some awesome hardware at London’s 2012 Games: a silver medal. All eyes are on the Arizona native as he shoots in the final team trial to officially earn his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
6. If you love bows and arrows, you’re a toxophilite.
It’s a funny-sounding word, but it’s legitimate. “Toxophilite” originates from Greek “toxon” for “bow and arrow” and “philos” for “loving.”
7. King Henry V must have been a toxophilite.
According to Slate, King Henry V ordered 500,000 arrows for his army in 1421. The arrows were stored in the Tower of London under the watchful eye of the appointed “keeper of the king’s arrows.”
Slate reports that arrows were fletched with goose feathers in King Henry’s days. Archers today use feathers or plastic vanes. It just depends on your personal style and how you want to express yourself.
8. Archery “disappeared” from the Olympics for more than 50 years.
Can you believe it? How did the sport go from absent to most-watched? As mentioned earlier, archery was introduced to the Olympics in 1900. It was then dropped in 1920 because it lacked international uniformity in rules and equipment. Enter World Archery, formerly called the International Archery Federation.
Archery returned in the 1972 Games, and has been a staple since.
9. Archery was the first Olympic sport to allow female competitors.
It’s true! In fact, the Olympic Games can be traced to 776 B.C., but they didn’t allow women to compete until the 1904 Games. It’s a good thing times change. Can you imagine the Olympics without female archers like Mackenzie Brown and Khatuna Lorig?
10. Team USA Olympic hopeful Khatuna Lorig is aiming for her sixth Olympics.
Lorig first competed for Team USA in 2008, but previously competed for the Unified Team (Soviet Union) and the Republic of Georgia. She won a bronze medal for the Unified Team at her first Olympics in 1992, and finished fourth for the United States in 2012.
Oh, and the celebs know she’s a big deal, too. She coached Broadway actress Danika Yarosh, Sports Illustrated Model Kirby Griffin, and Jennifer Lawrence for her role as Katniss Everdeen, our favorite archery heroine.
P.S. She shoots a purple bow and has a pet Chihuahua named Sydney.
11. Olympic hopefuls train in the world’s premiere archery facility. And it’s awesome!
The Easton Archery Center of Excellence, gifted and operated by the Easton Foundations, increased the U.S. Olympic Training Center by 42,629 square feet. The state-of-the-art design includes classrooms, conference rooms, a fitness room, an athletes’ lounge, coaches’ offices and housing for 30. It features two 90-meter outdoor ranges; a 22,440-square-foot, 70-meter indoor range; and a nearly 1,100-square-foot indoor/outdoor shooting range. In other words, it meets every archer’s need. These ranges, coupled with high-tech tools to analyze and perfect technique, push Olympians and Paralympians to their podium goals.