London 2012: Olympic Archery hits the spot
World record broken at Lord’s
Ordinarily when one thinks of Lord’s, one conjures up images of some of England’s sporting greats.
But the home of cricket played host to the Olympic archery ranking round today and, in its own unique way, it was just as captivating as a Test match or ODI.
I grew up watching the likes of Botham, Gower and Gooch on television and once saw Graeme Hick hit a century against Zimbabwe on the main square.
But, like former England captain Mike Atherton and other members of the media, I took the chance to watch some world-class archers in action on the Nursery Ground, which had been converted into a 70 metre shooting gallery.
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Instead of the sound of willow on leather, there was a collective ‘swoosh’ as 64 competitors released their bows at staggered intervals to launch their arrows at the target.
A total of 22 boards had been set up in a line, with three competitors sharing air time to build their scores.
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Each entrant had to fire a grand total of 72 arrows, over 12 rounds of six.
They had four minutes to do so, but as they were taking it in turns to shoot at a target with two other athletes, it meant 18 arrows had to be launched in those 240 seconds.
Each group of three would take it in turns to draw back the bow, cock their elbow high, then release – before checking the end result through a telescope stationed by their side.
Slowly the bays would empty and after three of the four minutes, there was usually only a third of the competitors still taking aim.
Then, once the buzzer sounded as the digital clock reached zero, the athletes would walk up to their targets like a human wave, confirm their scores with an official and retrieve their arrows, before returning to their mark for the next round.
It was strangely compelling viewing, although the targets were too far away to actually see the outcomes, but the announcer kept those watching informed of the leading positions.
The men’s morning round produced a world record for Korea’s Im Dong Hyun, who managed a score of 699 to pip his fellow countryman Kim Bubmin Kim by just a single arrow.
Team GB’s Larry Godfrey took a superb fourth place with a score of 680, confirming his pre-Games claim to be in the form of his life.
Alan Wills totalled 660, his third highest score of the year, in what he called “absolutely the perfect conditions” to finish in 42nd place, while Simon Terry was six shots back in 50th place.
GB ended in eighth place in the team event and will compete in the first round tomorrow. If they make it through to the quarter-finals they will face Ukraine.
The women’s afternoon round, meanwhile, produced a thrilling finish with three athletes all totalling 671.
Korea’s Ki Bo Bae pipped fellow countrywoman Lee Sung Jin by virtue of a 31-30 advantage in bullseyes, while Taipei’s Tan Ya-Ting was left in third place after hitting the centre 28 times.
Naomi Folkhard (637) was the leading Brit in 42nd place and faces Russia’s Kristina Timofeeva in the individual event on July 31.
Six-time Olympian and 2004 bronze medalist Alison Williamson (629) was 47th and takes on Mongolia’s Bishinee Urantungalag, while Amy Oliver must face India’s Deepika Kumari a day later after experiencing equipment problems on her way to score of 608 and 57th place.
Collectively they ranked 11th and will play Russia in their first round match for the right to meet Chinese Taipei.
Folkhard said: “My score wasn’t ideal, but it was alright. I’m feeling mentally quite strong.
“Tomorrow’s another day of practice and then the team event on Sunday, where we’ll be doing our best.”
And, apparently, the assembled media did their best, without even knowing it.
World Archery tweeted: “Another ‘record’ today – media attendance! Est. 500 print, photo, TV journalist at archery alone.”
Glad I made the effort.