How Does Olympic Archery Work?

How Archery Is Played In The Olympics

Archery is played as archers aim and shoot at targets in the hopes of getting the arrow closest to the center of the target. Points are assigned for different areas of the target and the archer with the highest score wins.


archery scoring

The goal of Olympic archery is to shoot one’s arrows as close to the center of a target as possible. These targets, 122 centimeters in diameter. have concentric scoring rings that are sorted into five separate colors.


archery equipment

The main piece of equipment an archer needs is a bow, and to compete in the Olympics athletes must use what is called a recurve bow. The bow gets its name, recurve, from the way that the bow’s limbs curve back away from the archer when held properly. This gives the recurve bow extra power when compared to a traditional straight bow. This type of bow is the modern evolution of the traditional bows that have been used throughout the globe for thousands of years. 

The recurve bow has three main sections: the riser (middle-grip area) and two limbs. Archers generate power to shoot arrows at targets by drawing back the bow string. The recurve limbs of the bow generate power, bending backwards as you draw the sting. When the string is let go, the limbs snap forward, releasing energy, and propelling the arrow.

The curved tips also mean that the recurve bow packs more punch while having a shorter length, which made it ideal for horseback-shooting and hunting in dense forestry in ancient times.

The recurve bow is the only bow that has ever been used in the modern Olympics. However, that may soon change, as more people are advocating for the addition of the compound bow to the Olympics.


Archery Setting

In the Olympics, archery is always practiced outdoors, and so archers are subject to many outdoors influences and distractions such as noise, wind, rain, light, and even the pressure to compete in the Olympic games. That way, the distance is only one of many, many factors that influence which part of the target an arrow is going to end up.


Archery Events

There are five different archery events at the Summer Olympics. They are men’s individual, women’s individual, men’s team, women’s team, and mixed team.

Ranking Round

There are a total of 64 qualification spots available for each gender. Every single one of these archers will start with the ranking round.

The archery events begin with men’s and women’s individual events in the ranking round on Day 0. This ranking round determines the placements for all five of the competitions.

In the ranking round, each archer shoots 72 arrows. Their scores will be tallied and each archer will be ranked from 1 to 64.

Individual Events

Archery Individual Events

The men’s and women’s events at the Olympics both follow the same format. After being seeded according to the ranking round results, the archers enter the elimination rounds, where they are whittled down from 64 to 1.

Team Events

Men’s and women’s team events also follow this same format. Each of the 12 teams include three players from the same nation, and each team is ranked according to the aggregate rankings of each of its members.

Because of this three archers per team format, each nation may only send a maximum of six archers to the Olympics.

Teams then enter a single-elimination competition starting with a round of 16. The top four teams are given a bye straight to the quarterfinals.

Mixed Team

Archery Mixed Team

The 16 mixed archery teams include one male and one female archer each. They are formed by taking the highest-ranked male and female archers from each country and pairing them together. The 2021 Tokyo Olympics are the first to feature this mixed team archery format.


Archery Gameplay

In the Olympic Games, all five of the archery events have the same distance between the archer and the target: 70 meters. The distance may vary in other competitions according to the size of the target, however in the Olympics both are kept constant.

All of the Olympic targets that have a diameter of 122 centimeters. With the distance, the size, and the equipment being the same for all archery events, what really changes is the gender of the athletes and the format of the event.

To begin, 64 athletes compete in a ranking round consisting of 72 arrows, shot in six sets of twelve. The athletes are ranked by score and seeded. Athletes then move on to a single-elimination tournament, with the winners advancing to the next phase. This continues until a victor is decided.

Elimination matches are scored via a set system. Each set consists of three arrows, with the victor gaining two points or one point if tied. A match is won at six points.

The higher seed decides which archer shoots first. Each subsequent round is started by the archer with the lower score. Competitors alternate shooting after each arrow and are allotted a timeframe of 20 seconds per arrow. If there is a tie after five sets, each archer shoots one arrow. The arrow closest to the center decides the winner.


What happened last time archery was played in the Olympics?

The last time archery was played in the Olympics was in Tokyo in 2020. The South Korean archery team won all four gold medals, which include the men’s team, women’s team, men’s mixed team, and women’s mixed team. In the men’s individual event, Mauro Nespoli of Italy won the gold medal. In the women’s individual event, An San of South Korea won the gold medal. She also set a world record in the ranking round, scoring 680 out of a possible 720 points.