Four years ago archery was the most-watched sport of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The sleek equipment, high-pressure shoot-offs, and athletes’ unrelenting poise under pressure attracted over 1.5 million viewers like moths to a flame. With the 2016 Rio Games approaching, archery could crush its 2012 viewing record.
Thanks to technology, media coverage of archery is easier and more direct than ever, whether you prefer Snapchat, live-stream or conventional TV. Whatever your preferred media, make sure you tune in the Olympics’ hottest sport. Here’s why:
1. The hottest sport gets the hottest venue.
Rio’s Sambodromo hosts the Olympic archery competition. Sambodromo is a parade area in downtown Rio designed by world-renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1984. In 2012, the venue underwent renovations to boost spectator capacity for the 2016 Games. John Niemeyer, the original architect’s nephew, oversaw the $19 million project, which added 20,000 seats to the existing structure.
Home to the annual Carnival Samba Parade, the venue boasts a 13-meter wide, 700-meter long “Parading Avenue” flanked by concrete bleachers with seating for 90,000. The long, straight avenue culminates in a grandiose concrete M-shaped arch, the symbol of the Carnival Parade. It’s sure to be an iconic backdrop for the Olympic archery competition and medal ceremonies.
2. The competition is hot, hot, hot…
Rio will welcome more than 200 nations and 10,000 athletes to the Olympic Games. Yet only four gold medals are up for grabs in archery: men’s individual, women’s individual, men’s team and women’s team. What’s it take to earn gold?
The key is consistently arrowing the 10-ring, the highest valued target ring. Archers like Team USA’s Zach Garrett shoot 300 arrows daily to prepare for the Games. His consistent practice ensures sound technique so he can hit the apple-sized bull’s-eye from 70 meters – or ¾ of the length of a football field. From that distance the bull’s-eye looks like the tip of a ballpoint pen at arm’s length (no magnification allowed!). That means a mere 1-millimeter twitch of the bow hand can cause over 3 inches of movement – and a misplaced arrow – at the target.
3. But the U.S. archers are even hotter.
Team USA members Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski are riding the heat wave after earning a silver medal with team member Jacob Wukie at the London 2012 Olympics. Their medal was Team USA’s first medal of the 2012 Games and its first archery medal since 2000.
The U.S. men’s team blazed a hot trail to the finals and faced three-time defending Olympic champion South Korea in the semifinals. The high-pressure match added fuel to the flame, pushing Team USA to leave it all at the shooting line.
“Every reporter that came up to talk to us said, ‘Korea is impossible to beat, do you guys think you can do it?,’” Ellison told USA Archery. “So the media helped us be like, ‘Yeah, we can. Quit telling us we can’t.’”
And they did. Ellison, Kaminski and Wukie beat South Korea to face Italy in the finals. Windy conditions made it even harder to maintain a steady hand at the shooting line. Down by 4 points, Team USA mounted a comeback, cut the point spread to 1, and captured silver.
One point and four years. That’s all that stood between a gold medal and Team USA’s “band of brothers,” and that’s just enough to fan the Olympic flame in 2016.
Garrett, who replaces Wukie this year, joins Ellison and Kaminski as the third member of Team USA’s 2016 men’s archery team.
4. They’re so hot they’re on fire.
Mackenzie Brown is known as Team USA’s “Girl on Fire” for her gold-medal win at the World Cup in Poland. That was her starting point for greatness. She went on to win a bronze medal at the Rio test event, and gold in the Olympic Trials, where she claimed her spot on the 2016 Olympic team.
The Rio competition will be hot, but it’s not too hot for her to handle. She says she loves match play, where winning archers eliminate their opponent from the competition.
“My strong suit is in match play,” she told Kathy White in a 2015 interview. “I think it’s a little bit more psychological. It’s almost two different games. When I’m right there with a competitor, it’s ‘game on.’”
Her mental acuity and strength under pressure will be tested when facing Ki Bo Bae, South Korea’s reigning Olympic champion.
5. South Korea blazes a trail for hot competition.
South Korea’s history in Olympic archery competition is outstanding. Its archers boast 34 medals, 19 of which are gold, and they’ve won every women’s recurve event since women’s archery joined the Olympics in 1988 at Seoul. Ki Bo Bae, Korea’s reigning gold medalist, leads the 2016 Korean team as its only Olympic archery veteran. And she’s out for another gold.
After the selection shoot, she said, “I want to get a second gold medal at the Olympics,” World Archery reported. “But more importantly, we want to keep our team record at the Olympics. It would be eight consecutive golds for the Korean team. We definitely want to keep our team record at the Olympics for our senior members. That is the main goal for me and the main goal for my team members, as well.”
The 2016 Olympic Games begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro. Catch the action on Snapchat, or tune into NBC Olympics to watch live on TV and online. Visit USA Archery for more information about the U.S. Olympic archery team.