Tokyo Olympics: Archery

  • 01/01/2021

Archery has existed for centuries, primarily as a means of warfare or hunting, and was one of the first Olympic sports, introduced at Paris 1900.

Competition formats have varied, largely depending on rules adopted by host nations, but were standardised at Munich 1972, after a 52-year absence from the programme. 

At Tokyo, archery will be contested in men's and women's individual and team events, as well as a mixed team event for the first time.

South Korea has traditionally dominated Olympic competition, winning 23 of 40 gold medals over the past 12 Games.

American Brady Ellison is the reigning world men's champion, while Lei Chien-ying of Chinese Taipei is the women’s titleholder. China won the 2019 men's team crown, Chinese Taipei took out the women, with South Korea prevailing in the mixed event.

Wheelchair-bound Kiwi Neroli Fairhall - a 1982 Commonwealth Games gold medallist - became the first paraplegic Olympian at Los Angeles 1984, and New Zealand has qualified male and female archers for Tokyo through the 2019 Pacific Games. 

NZ Team

Five to watch

Brady Ellison (United States)

Currently No.1 in the world and a three-time Olympic archery medallist, Ellison is enjoying the best time of his long international career.

The 32-year-old set a new world record in 2019 and is taking momentum into the Tokyo Olympics, as he targets his first Olympic gold.

Ellison overcame complications from Perthes Disease, a condition affecting the hip joint in children, and put off surgery for nine months, so he could compete at Beijing 2008. His wife is also an archer from Slovenia.

Lisa Barbelin (France)

The 21-year-old secured a quota place for the Olympics this month and will compete at her first Games.

Her run of victories at the start of the year moved her into top spot in the women's world rankings.

Brady Ellison at the US Olympic trials
Brady Ellison at the US Olympic trials. Photo credit: Getty

Kim Woojin (South Korea)

The 28-year-old Kim will be a contender in Tokyo to break the qualification round record set by the United States' Ellison.

Kim won gold in the men's team event at Rio 2016, but suffered a surprise elimination in the individual round of 32.

Deepika Kumari (India)

Kumari is a real medal prospect for India at Tokyo, and trains with husband and another Tokyo-bound recurve archer Atanu Das.

With her father working as an auto-rickshaw driver, Kumari grew up watching her parents struggle to make ends meet, but the wheels of fortune began shifting, after she managed to join a state-run archery academy that provided free training.

Her story is featured in a Netflix documentary Ladies First.

Lisa Unruh (Germany)

A silver medallist at Rio, Unruh, 33, may be one of the few athletes who benefited from the postponement of the Olympics last year.

Following a shoulder operation, she looked likely to miss out on the Games, but the pandemic allowed her to take the time to recover.

Unlike most elite athletes, archery is not Unruh's full-time job, who works as a police officer.