Archery was the most-watched sport of the 2012 London Games, and the Olympics’ fandom is gearing up for another record-breaking year. Train your brain for Rio 2016 viewing with an inside look at the sport that captivated millions four years ago.
In Olympic archery, the target and shooting line (where archers stand to shoot) are 70 meters (about 76 yards) apart. The target measures 122 centimeters (about 48 inches) in diameter and includes 10 concentric rings, with each ring increasing in point value from 1 to 10. The innermost circle – the bull’s-eye – is worth the most points and measures about 12.2 centimeters across. That’s roughly the size of a CD or grapefruit. So three-quarters of a football field stands between you and a grapefruit-sized target. No problem, right? Ehhh, not so fast.
Olympic.org notes that from 70 meters, the entire target appears as small as a thumbtack held at arm’s length. A thumbtack! In other words, it’s small and pretty danged hard to see. Especially when you’re relying on the unaided eye (no magnification!) to see the target. This means you need sharp eyesight and precise shooting techniques to earn maximum points.
Earlier this year, Gillette World Sport interviewed U.S. archer and Olympic hopeful Zach Garrett, who highlighted the precision required on the archery range. Garrett offered an inside look at his medal-winning technique, and awesome technical gear available at the Olympic Training Center.
Garrett ranks second among the top eight male contenders for Team USA, following close behind Olympic silver medalist Brady Ellison. The key to his success? Sixteen years of dedication.
“If you do the technique the right way, the arrows will group close together,” Garrett told Gillette World Sport. “But if you mess up, then the arrow’s gonna go off. Very small differences in your technique make huge differences at 70 meters.”
The smallest change in grip, stance or release at the shooting line causes major differences at the target. “A couple thousandths of an inch, a millimeter, is going to move you well over 3 inches at the target face,” Garrett said. “That can be the difference between a lot of things.” Perhaps even the difference between a silver medal and gold medal.
The Telegraph notes that in the individual archery competition, a perfect score – achieved by arrowing only bull’s-eyes – is 720. That’s never been done, but the U.S. archers are trucking full-speed ahead. In this case, “full speed” is 150 mph.
Each time Garrett draws his bow, he loads energy into its limbs. When he releases the bowstring, the bow generates kinetic energy, which propels the arrow at 150 mph. But before he unleashes that kinetic energy, Garrett must channel his mental and physical energy.
“It takes a lot of mental energy to do something so repetitious 300 times a day, and then to go to a tournament and be able to do the same thing time and time again under a tournament pressure,” Garrett said.
Let’s break this down: If Garrett draws a 50-pound bow with each shot, and shoots 300 arrows a day, that equals 7.5 tons of draw weight – about the heft of an African elephant.
Precise muscle movements and body alignment make that possible. ESPN notes that athletes like Garrett and Ellison shoot by capitalizing on their bone structure, aligning their joints and arm bones to minimize muscle fatigue and maintain steady position.
Precise technique and a steady position at the line deliver precise shots and tight groups at the target. And that’s precisely what Garrett must do to take gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Follow Garrett and Team USA’s archery progress leading up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by visiting USA Archery.