Rio 2016: The Olympic Medalist
Behind Katniss Everdeen Rio 2016: The Olympic Medalist Behind Katniss Everdeen

We’ve watched Katniss Everdeen shoot arrows across movie theater screens for four years, but most “Hunger Games” fans don’t know that a Rio 2016 hopeful is behind Jennifer Lawrence’s trademark shot.

When Khatuna Lorig was approached to coach the actress over 12 archery lessons at a park in Los Angeles, she immediately saw Lawrence’s potential. “I wanted her to look like a real archer,” Lorig told the International Olympic Committee. “She got better and better so I had to move her away from the target so she didn’t break the arrows.”

Lorig, who competes using a recurve bow, knows what it takes to hit the middle of an archery target. At the London 2012 Olympic Games – her fifth Olympic Games –she finished fourth individually, which was an incredible but heartbreaking feat.

In archery, finishing fourth means losing in the semifinals, and then getting beat in the bronze medal match – not an easy situation to face. After her loss in the semifinals to Korea’s Ki Bo Bae, the eventual Olympic champion, Lorig had to regroup quickly to shoot for bronze:

“Right after that, I had maybe 10-15 minutes break, then they took me straight to the bronze-medal match. I was so upset not making that gold medal match because of one lousy shot — one lousy shot! — I didn’t have time to recover. I felt alone. It happened so quick, I didn’t have time to talk to anyone. There was no one to tell me, ‘Hey, snap out of it.’’’

”It kills me and fires me up at the same time,” she told TeamUSA.org. “That’s how close I got, and I’m not quitting until I get that medal.”

BEIJING - AUGUST 24: Archer Khatuna Lorig of the United States of America carries her countrys flag into the National Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China. Photo Credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images

BEIJING – AUGUST 24: Archer Khatuna Lorig of the United States of America carries her countrys flag into the National Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China. Photo Credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Lorig, who has competed for the Soviet Union, the Republic of Georgia, and now as a U.S. citizen, also has an Olympic medal to her credit: a team bronze, from 1992.

Some people discount 41-year-old athletes, but it would be crazy to bet against Lorig for age alone; for the past three years, she dominated the U.S. scene and turned in strong performances at World Cup competitions. This summer, she won a Pan Am Games individual gold medal, and she’s currently ranked 9th in the world.

“This is USA on my back, I’m walking around like a peacock and I like to bring the gold,” Lorig told TeamUSA.org about the Pan Am Games win. “I like to see my sport glow, especially when it says USA on my back.”

Fellow Rio 2016 hopeful Brady Ellison has faith in longtime teammate Lorig: “Definitely when I was younger, she showed me the ropes. She’s tough, she won’t give up, and she’s never going to back down. She’s just determined.”

Khatuna Lorig poses with Jennifer Lawrence during archery lessons in California, before the first “Hunger Games” movie premiered. Photo credit: Levan Onashvili

This year, Lorig has been part of one of the strongest U.S. women’s teams in recent memory: they’re currently ranked second in the world, just behind powerhouse team South Korea. Lorig has contributed to that success. The team clinched three World Cup medals this year, including their first gold, and Lorig earned the U. S. an individual spot for Rio 2016.

The improvement in the women’s team overall puts a bit more pressure on Lorig. She’s currently fourth in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, with one Trials event finished and two more to go. Women’s Head Coach Guy Krueger says she’s a strong competitor:

“This is the best shooting and mental preparation that I’ve ever seen from Khatuna. Her age has nothing to do with how much potential she has at this moment. She can keep going as long as she wants to go.”

As for Lorig, she seems to be embracing the pressure, and her focus is singular: earning a ticket to Rio 2016, and climbing the podium when she gets there.

“I believe in myself that the one thing I am dreaming about, the Olympic gold medal. I’m going to get it.”

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