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Guide to archery

Archery guide
A recurve bow, as used in Olympic competition

The use of the bow and arrow goes back to the ancient Egyptians. Archery first appeared in the Olympics in 1900 and was included in the Commonwealth Games programme in 2010 for the first time since it made its debut in Brisbane in 1982.

The 'aim' of the sport is simple - archers must hit a target consisting of five coloured rings.

The closer to the centre of the target the arrow lands, the more points are scored.


Modern bows are made from laminations of wood with carbon fibre, fibreglass, ceramic or hard foam.

Both the recurve bow and compound bow feature at Commonwealth Games but only the recurve bow is used at the Olympics.

The recurve bow is so called because the tips of its limbs curl away from the archer. When the string is drawn back, the curves straighten to provide leverage when the string is released.

The compound bow, invented in the USA in 1967, has a stiffer limb than a recurve so a levering system is necessary to make it bend.

The compound bow is more technically advanced and more accurate than the recurve so scores are usually higher.

The arrows consist of a carbon or aluminium shaft with a steel head.

The targets are 122cm in diameter and competitors stand a distance of 70m from the target.


The individual competition begins with a qualification round, in which each archer shoots 72 arrows in 12 ends of six arrows. There is a time limit of four minutes to shoot each end.

The top 64 archers advance to the elimination round and are ranked from one to 64 depending on their score. The maximum number of points is 720.

In the elimination round, archers are paired head-to-head in a knockout format. The top seed from the qualification round is matched against the 64th seed, with the second seed against the 63rd seed, and so on.

Under the international governing body's new scoring system introduced in 2010, the winner of a match is determined by the number of set points won, not the overall total score of the arrows.

All matches prior to the quarter-finals consist of a maximum of three sets of six arrows each. An archer scores two points for winning a set and one for a tie; the first person to reach four points is the victor.

If the match is tied after three sets, then a single-arrow shoot-off will determine the winner - the archer who shoots the arrow closest to the centre advances.

From the quarter-final stage onwards, archers shoot a maximum of five sets, with three arrows per set. The match winner is the first to achieve six points, with a single-arrow shoot-off again used in the event of a tie.

In the team events, the traditional scoring system will remain, and so the nation with the best overall score at the end of each match will advance to the next round.

Each team, which consists of three archers, is ranked according to their cumulative scores in the qualification round described above. The top seeds will play the bottom seeds, and so on, in a knockout format

Each team shoots 24 arrows, divided into four ends of six arrows. The archers are free to choose the order of shooting, but they only have two minutes in which to complete each end.

In case of a tie, each team shoots one end of three arrows in a sudden death shoot-off until one team wins. The best score is used as the tiebreak on the first extra end or, if tied again, on the second extra end. If a third end is necessary, the closest arrow to the centre of the target will win the contest.


If you feel inspired to take aim, Archery GB should be your first target.

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see also
Alison Williamson's guide to archery
11 Apr 08 |  Archery

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