It’s an Olympic year!
Tokyo 2.0 is scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8, and many athletes are preparing for their long-awaited chance at Olympic gold. COVID-19 may have closed gyms and training facilities, but dedicated athletes still found ways to train and shoot to stay ready.
The Olympics, postponed from summer 2020 to this year by COVID-19, will probably look different because of precautions caused by the pandemic. Athletes, judges, coaches and spectators will probably have to take COVID tests to minimize disease risks. Facemasks and physical distancing will be standard, likely canceling or reducing participation in the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies.
Regardless of COVID-19 precautions, the competition will go on. The shooting format will probably change little, and the competition field will help keep athletes separated during matches.
For those who haven’t watched Olympic archery, let’s discuss what to expect. The Games allow only 64 men and 64 women to compete. These archers earn their spots by competing in the World Championships, Continental Games, Continental Qualifiers and the World Cup. Olympic events feature an individual round, team round, and mixed team round. It’s one of only a handful of Olympic sports in which a mix of men and women contend for a medal.
They will shoot 70 meters at a 10-ring measuring 12.2 centimeters in diameter. The world’s best archers hit this bull’s-eye about 97% of the time.
Archers get ranked from 1 to 64 in a qualification round before the opening ceremonies because that round is not technically part of the Olympics. After the archers are ranked, they compete in head-to-head matches where No. 1 faces No. 64, No. 2 faces No 63, and so on. These matches eliminate half the field during each round and continue until determining a champion. The rounds for teams and mixed teams follow the same process.
The matches use a set system in which archers earn points based on whether they win or lose a set. A set consists of two archers shooting three arrows each. The archer with the highest score in the set — the total of their three arrows — wins 2 set points. The losing archer receives zero. If both archers tie in set score, each receives 1 set point. The first archer to reach 6 set points wins the match. The same rules apply for sets in team and mixed formats, but the first team to reach 5 set points wins the match.
Even though the pandemic halted world-level competitions in 2020, a few names bear watching during this year’s Olympics. American Brady Ellison had been shooting one of the best indoor seasons of his life before the pandemic struck. Ellison’s good shooting will likely carry over into the outdoor season. Meanwhile, German archer Lisa Unruh was consistently rising in 2020, and should also be considered a favorite. And as always, the Koreans will be there to defend their titles.
Regardless of who’s favored, nearly a year has passed since the last international competition. That makes it hard to make predictions about which archers to watch closely. It’s anybody’s game at the moment, and that should make archery extremely fun to watch in 2021.