What Is Olympic Archery?

Archery is one of the oldest sports on the planet. Its simplicity, precision, and endurance allowed it to maintain its popularity among other Olympic sports.

Everybody knows that archery is about using a bow to shoot arrows as close to the center of the 10-point ring target as possible, but how does the game actually work? How can an Olympic archer win? Do archers work in teams or alone? How did it begin? If you’d like to have all of these questions answered, tag along.

How Does Archery Work in the Olympics?

Olympic competition is divided into individual and team competition. And men and women compete in both categories. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

Olympic Archery

1. Individual Competition

As the name suggests, one archer competes against another of the same gender in the individual competition. Each archer is given 20 seconds for an arrow, and they take turns.

In the qualifying round, each archer shoots 72 arrows at the 10-point ring target that’s 70 meters away. It’s played in 12 ends of six arrows that take about two hours, where each archer shoots three arrows.

Furthermore, the archer who wins the highest points of these three arrows gets two set points. However, if the set is a draw, every archer wins one set point. And the first archer to win six set points wins.

In this round, their total scores determine each player’s ranking or “seed” in the matchplay phase. They’re ranked from one to 64.

Next, in the matchplay phase or elimination round, two archers compete in sets of three arrows each. The loser is eliminated from the game while the winner advances to the next stage. And this phase ends with only two archers left to compete in the gold medal final. Meanwhile, the two semi-final losers compete for the bronze medal.

Finally, if there’s a tie after five sets, each archer gets to shoot one arrow. The archer whose arrow hits closer to the center of the target wins the match.

2. Team Competition

Team competition is very similar to individual competition, but there are some differences. For example, in team competitions, three archers compete against another three. However, there are two types of matches in this category: teams and mixed teams.

Olympic Archery Team Competition

Teams are made up of three archers that compete against archers of the same gender. Mixed teams, who made their debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, are made up of one man and one woman. And they compete against other mixed teams.


The combined score of the team gets them a ranking from one to 12 for the matchplay phase. The set-in team competition is made of six, not three, arrows. And each member of a team shoots one arrow in a set.

Like the individual competition, the team that scores the highest in the set wins two set points. If the set is a draw, each team wins one set point. Of course, the team that wins five set points first wins the match. If there’s a tie after four sets, each archer in both teams shoots one arrow.


Mixed teams are formed based on the combined qualifying result of each country’s highest scoring man and woman. Their matches typically last around 18 minutes. In this type of competition, the maximum score for a team is 1440 points.

Next, mixed teams compete against each other in head-to-head brackets, in which the winning mixed team advances while the losing one is eliminated. This cycle is repeated until a final winner is crowned.

Also, mixed teams use the set system, and the goal is to win five set points first. However, mixed team matches are made up of four arrows, so each team shoots two (one per archer). After the set ends, the team with the highest total score wins two set points, and both teams get one set point in case of a tie.

Last but not least, if both teams are tied after four sets, each archer shoots an arrow so that the team with the highest score wins. If still tied, the team with the arrow closest to the center of the target wins.

History of Olympic Archery

Archery’s debut in the Olympics was at the Paris 1900 Olympics. It appeared again in the 1904, 1908, and 1920 games. Additionally, the St. Louis 1904 games were women’s debut in archery and the Olympics, in general.

History of Olympic Archery

However, rules often changed, depending on the host country. It disappeared for 52 years, making a comeback at the Munich 1972 games. Since then, it’s had a stable presence. And individuals and teams would compete against archers of the same gender. However, the Tokyo 2020 games introduce mixed teams to the beloved sport.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Archery Is in the Olympics?

In the Olympics, archers compete in outdoor Target archery, so they’re only allowed to use a recurve bow. Outdoor archery exposes the archer to some challenges, such as the temperature, wind, and sun. Also, archers have to shoot from a long distance. Finally, the choice of recurve bow for the Olympics is due to its efficiency in speed and energy.

Is Olympic Archery Hard?

It isn’t the most challenging sport. Nonetheless, it isn’t as easy as it seems, as it needs a lot of strength to carry the bow. In addition, Olympic archery requires an archer who can calm themselves down right before shooting. The sport demands a lot of focus as well.

Do You Need to Be Strong to Do Archery?

Yes, you do. You need not only to be strong but also much stronger than the bow itself to carry it and shoot comfortably with it.

Final Thoughts

In Olympic archery, archers compete as individuals, teams, and mixed teams. It’s been around as an Olympic sport for a while, but its consistent presence has only been in place since 1972. Also, Olympic archery is much simpler than many games, but it demands a certain level of strength and focus.