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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 17:07 GMT
Archery hits the bullseye
By Peter Jones

Archery is soaring in popularity thanks to the influence of the Lord of the Rings trilogy
Never underestimate the power of "the big screen".

The Grand National Archery Society certainly hasn't following a surge in interest in their sport thanks to the success of hit film Lord Of The Rings.

It's true. Archery is becoming cool. And it's all thanks to the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Archery clubs around the country have noticed an upsurge in interest - and many would-be recruits are admitting that watching the award-winning films has aroused their interest in the sport.

"To say it's a boom would be to overstate it," said Elaine Nickols, who set up the Meridian Archery Club in East Grinstead three years ago.

"But there's certainly been an encouraging rise in interest in our sport and from the people who come along to my club.

"A lot of the youngsters are admitting their interest follows a trip to the cinema to see Lord of the Rings.

Archery is a great leveller: men and women, able-bodied or disabled - no-one is left out
Elaine Nickols, co-founder of the Meridian Archery Club
"All our beginners' courses are fully booked. Indeed we're turning people away - and for a minority sport like ours that's terrific.

"Of course, not everyone lasts the pace. Some newcomers to the sport decide it's not for them - and that's understandable - but plenty of people who come along as a beginner are staying with us.

"What I think is important is that it proves you don't have to be able to run fast or kick a ball hard to be good at a sport.

"Archery teaches you individual discipline and responsibility, and it's a challenging sport in that you're always looking to better your score.

"It's a great leveller. People of all ages can do it: men and women; able-bodied or disabled. No-one is left out."

One recent convert to the cause is 12-year-old Tom Wilson, now a regular member of the Meridian Club.

"I used to see people practising archery in the fields behind my house and became interested then, but I really got the urge to give it a go when I went to see Lord of the Rings," he said.

"They were doing it in the film and it looked fun, so I had a look on the web and found out about my local clubs and came along to a beginners course that Elaine was organising.

"It's great fun, I've made some new friends and as I get better I hope I can become more competitive."

Stefan Brewster, 10, was looking for a hobby.

"I didn't really enjoy playing football, and when I went to see Lord of the Rings I thought the archery in it looked really exciting," he said.

"I found out about this club and did the beginners' course. It's great fun and I've found a sport that I really enjoy."

Today's first-timer could be tomorrow's Olympic champion!
GNAS chief executive David Sherrat
According to current figures, there are 1,040 archery clubs in the United Kingdom, made up of 23,500 members affiliated to the GNAS.

That is up from 18,500 in 1999 and an increase of 10% in the last 12 months.

GNAS chief executive David Sherrat said he was delighted at the rise in club membership.

"If it's down to Lord of the Rings then let's have another one," he said.

"Actually, we had a similar rise in interest after Robin, Prince of Thieves. But talking to people around the country, this time it really has had an effect - and that's great.

"I'm biased but archery is a great sport, and we do tend to find that many people - young and old - who enrol on a beginners' course tend to join the club and take it up as a hobby.

"Obviously, the younger they start the further they can progress competitively - and the more people we can attract, then the competitiveness will raise the standards and help us win more medals for Britain at the Olympics.

"Just remember, today's first-timer could be tomorrow's Olympic champion!"

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