Punching paper targets might not be as thrilling as sending arrows through bugling bull elk, but Olympic archery is still exciting to watch — especially when you know exactly what’s happening.
Archery is one of the sports that will be kicking off the Olympic competition at the Tokyo Games. Medals will be awarded in women’s individual, men’s individual, women’s team, and men’s team archery events. A mixed team event has also been added to this year’s lineup for the first time in Olympic history.
Archery events are scheduled to take place at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field from July 23 to 31. All archers will shoot recurve bows. These rigs only vaguely resemble the primitive weapons most of us think of when we hear the word “recurve.” In order to reach those 70-meter targets (if you’re stubbornly American, that’s just over 76 yards), Olympic athletes take advantage of top-of-the-line modern accessories.
Olympic recurves aren’t more powerful than the recurves your buddies use for bowhunting. It’s the accessories that set these modern competition rigs apart. Olympic archers use long, weighted stabilizers and clickers to improve consistency — and therefore, accuracy — shot to shot.
The Competition Format
Each event begins with an initial ranking round. Each of the 64 archers will shoot a total of 72 arrows. After the ranking round, the athletes are seeded according to their scores.
The ranking rounds are also used to seed the men and women for the mixed team event. The individual scores for the members of each country’s team are combined to narrow the field to 16 teams.
Consecutive rounds use a single-elimination bracket format. Each competitor has 20 seconds to shoot each of his or her arrows, and archers take turns shooting one arrow at a time. Archers are awarded two points if they have the highest scores in a set. Both athletes receive one point if the set is tied. The first competitor to earn six points wins the match and advances to the next round.
The two losing archers of the semifinal brackets will go head-to-head to decide the bronze medal winner. Winners of the semifinal bracket compete to determine gold and silver.
Americans To Watch
Although South Korea has a history of Olympic archery dominance, there are several shining American athletes worth cheering on.
Now heading into his third Olympics, Brady Ellison is on a quest for his first gold medal. Ellison is currently the No. 1-ranked men’s recurve archer in the world. He also holds the record for the longest continuous period as the world’s No. 1-ranked men’s recurve archer. Ellison earned a bronze medal in the individual men’s event in Rio in 2016. He also has two team silver medals he received in London 2012 and Rio 2016. Ellison is currently performing at the top of his game. Leading up to the 2020 Olympics, he won almost every major event on the international archery circuit, including the 2019 world title.
Jack Williams ranked ninth in the world during the 2019 archery season. Although Williams is a newcomer to the Olympic scene, he is no stranger to international competition. He won silver at the Paris World Cup event, losing to teammate Brady Ellison after an impressive run. At age 21, Williams is the youngster on the US Men’s Archery Team.
Jacob Wukie returns to the Olympic stage in Tokyo after helping earn the US team a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. Wukie delivered a commanding performance during the grueling Olympic trials and is expected to carry the same competitive edge into the Games.
Although 17-year-old Casey Kaufhold is making her Olympic debut in Tokyo, she is already a highly accomplished archer. Kaufhold is the daughter of Rob Kaufhold, former US national champion and CEO of the well-known Lancaster Archery Supply. She grew up immersed in the sport and started shooting a bow when she wasn’t much more than a toddler. In 2018, Kaufhold smashed archery records at the US National Indoor Championships, shooting the highest score of any woman archer in US history. She accomplished this feat just days before her 14th birthday.
Mackenzie Brown represented the United States at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as the country’s only female archer. At the 2020 US Olympic trials, Brown broke the senior world record with a score of 1346/1400. She is currently the No. 12-ranked female recurve archer in the world.
Eighteen-year-old Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez rounds out the women’s team. Mucino-Fernandez is coached by her mother, and the two have learned the sport mostly on their own. While she lacks the experience of most of the archers she will face in Tokyo, Mucino-Fernandez could make up for it with raw talent.