Ready for Rio: Archery, 16 facts

By Jillian Clarke | Sept. 09, 2014, 1 p.m. (ET)

Jeff Fabry
Jeff Fabry, a 2012 Paralympic gold medalist, is a hopeful for the 2016 Paralympic Games. His medal marked the first Olympic or Paralympic title for USA Archery since 1996 and the first Paralympic gold since 1984.

The 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, start 729 days from today. Get your archery knowledge on target with these 16 facts:

1. Paralympic history
Archery was one of the eight pioneer sports to debut at the Rome 1960 Paralympic Games. The sport was originally open for veterans with spinal cord injuries following World War II; however, the classifications for archery have broadened with time.

2. Game changer
As of April 2014, classifications for archery in the Paralympic Games have been redefined. Now, only athletes who have impairments that directly affect their archery performance are eligible to compete in the Paralympic Games. This means that some medalists from the London 2012 Paralympic Games are not eligible to compete in Rio.

3. Objective
Archers strive to shoot the arrow as close as possible to the center of a target. Paralympic archery competition format is similar to Olympic archery. Unlike the Olympic Games, compound bows are allowed in the Paralympic Games. Recurve athletes shoot at the target from a distance of 70 meters, and compound archers shoot from 50 meters.

4. On target
Targets for recurves are 122 centimeters in diameter, with a 12.2 centimeter gold ring in the center, which is worth a maximum 10 points. Compound archers shoot at an 80 cm target with the innermost scoring ring—the 10 ring—measuring 8.0 cm. Athletes must shoot 72 arrows in 12 ends comprised of six arrows each with only four minutes per end.

5. Magic number
A perfect score in archery is 720. The total score of all 72 arrows determines the ranking of each athlete. These are used to determine the elimination brackets for both the individual and team competitions.

6. Individual and team events
For an individual recurve event, matches consist of the best of five sets, with each set having up to five ends of three arrows per athlete. For compound individual competition, the total score after five ends of three arrows determines the winner. The team event in 2016 will be for mixed teams, and teams of two (one male, one female) will compete for the medals.

7. On the line
What happens when an arrow lands on the line between two scoring circles? This happenstance, called a line breaker, results in the archer receiving the higher score. With 10 rings on the target, and 72 arrows to shoot, this advantage can come in handy.

8. Bows
One type of bow is the recurve bow, which has a distinctive outward curve at the top. Another type of bow is the compound bow, which features mechanical pulleys, telescopic sights and release aids to assist in accuracy. Depending on their classification, Paralympians may use customized release aids that can release the arrow using their jaw, their chin or their teeth.

9. Arrows
Some competition arrows are made of carbon graphite with an inner tube of aluminum, while some are carbon only. These materials allow arrows to be light, stiff and durable during competition.

10. History of archery
Archery is believed to have been used for hunting even before the Ancient Egyptians adopted it into their culture. Ancient Egyptians used it during war and to hunt. Archery was later introduced to Asia and the Middle East, which led to some regions using archery for hunting and sporting rather than warfare.

11. London 2012
During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 140 athletes competed in nine medal events for archery. 

Matt StutzmanMatt Stutzman, silver medalist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, was born without arms. He uses his mouth, legs and feet to control his bow and arrow.
12. The "Armless Archer"

Known as the “Armless Archer,” U.S. Paralympian Matt Stutzman was born without arms and uses his feet to hold and aim his bow. He considers it an advantage since his legs are the strongest parts of his body. Stutzman’s legs helped him hit a target located 230 yards away, which became the Guinness World Record for the longest shot performed by any archer.


13. U.S. medal standings
After taking 10th place overall for Paralympic archery at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, the U.S. moved up to fourth at the London 2012 Games. The U.S. took home one gold and one silver medal, tying with Great Britain and Italy. Jeff Fabry won Team USA’s first gold medal in archery since 1984 while Stutzman won silver.

14. Lingo to know

  • Boss (or matt): A boss, or matt, is the target, usually a square block made of compacted foam to which the target face (consisting multicolored rings) is attached.
  • Cast: The farthest distance a bow can shoot an arrow.
  • Release: Exactly as it sounds, release is when an arrow is released from a fully drawn bow.

15. The flaming arrow
At the Opening Ceremony of the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, Spain’s Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo famously launched a flaming arrow to light the Olympic Cauldron.

16. Where to watch in 2016
Paralympic Archery will be held at the Sambódromo in Maracanã. The stadium, which annually hosts the Carnival parade, will make for an exciting venue to watch Paralympic archery. After renovations to the current stadium, the Sambódromo will be able to hold approximately 4,200 spectators.

To learn more about the sport of archery, visit the USA Archery website at USAArchery.org. USA Archery is the National Governing Body for the sport of archery, able-bodied and Paralympic-eligible, while World Archery Federation is the global governing body.