Learn An Olympic Sport: Archery

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The Olympics are about to start, and admit it, you don’t know the first thing about any of these sports.

You probably know the USA Olympic basketball team, and probably a gymnast or two, but the rest of the sports — it’s fine if you’re drawing a blank.

We’re here to help.

The Olympics is the greatest festival — perhaps Carnival is the better term here — of sport the world has to offer, and there are a lot of sports you’ve never watched that will be beamed directly to your television sets and smartphones this August.

Now’s the time to fall in love with a new sport, and we’re here to help introduce you to a few new games:

Previous editionsBadminton, Handball, Water Polo


When can I watch?

Aug. 5 to 21

Why should I watch?

Archery is the curling of the summer. The rules are simple, and the drama is real. Archery was the breakout television hit of the 2012 Olympics — thanks in part to the Hunger Games — but the engrossing qualities of the sport haven’t changed a bit. It’s a head-to-head competition where the margins are fine and upsets happen all the time. The men’s and women’s competitions are 64-team single elimination tournaments, and the team competition adds more strategy and intra-squad drama.

Do you have a video? A video might help:

Can you explain the rules in a minute?

In the individual competitions, opponents stand the requisite 70 meters from the target and alternate shooting three arrows each. The archer who scores the most points on the board (closer to the bullseye, the more points) wins the set and earns two points. Draws earn a point. It’s more or less a best-of-five match.

The team event has a bit different rules. Three archers per team, each shooting two arrows, with two minutes to shoot the six total arrows. Most points after four turns (ends) wins.

The bullseye is worth 10, but there is a bullseye within the bullseye — the X-10, it’s called — and is used for tie-breaking.

Are Americans any good at this?

Absolutely, but they’re the second-best nation in the sport. South Korea is the dominant force in archery, and it doesn’t look like that will change in 2016. The USA has a real shot at winning gold in the men’s team competition — they were silver medalists in 2012.

Who are the favorites?

Going into every Olympics, it is presumed that South Korea will win at least two gold medals out of the four events. The joke in South Korea is that it’s harder to make the nation’s Olympic team than it is to win a gold medal.

Kim Woo-jin is the prohibitive favorite to win the men’s individual gold. Countrymen Lee Seungyun and Ku Bonchan are the favorites to round out the medal podium. The best non-South Korean competitor is Sief Van den Berg of the Netherlands. America’s Brady Ellison is a dark horse to win gold, though. And don’t sleep on Brazil’s Marcos D’Almeida — the Neymar of archery — who at 18 is going to have a big crowd behind his legitimate medal chances. He came in second in the 2014 World Cup (losing to Ellison) at age 16.

South Korea is tremendous favorites to win the men’s team competition, as you might have deduced from them having the three best individual men’s competitors. The USA, 2012 gold medalists Italy, and Netherlands are the teams that could push the Koreans.

The women’s individual event also features three South Koreans on top. Choi Misun is the favorite. Ki Bo Bae and Chang Hye Jin are expected to round out the podium. Mackenzie Brown is the top American, she has an outside shot at the podium.

The South Koreans have won all seven gold medals in the women’s team event since it re-entered the Olympics. They’ll make it eight this summer. China is a distant second.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)