Athletes get familiar with Olympic matchplay arena

At most archery events, official practice takes place the day before qualification – but finals fields are off limits until an athlete steps up to compete. At the Olympic Games, things are a little different. Because all matches take place in the same arena, two days of familiarisation take place.

Each day, each team gets 30 minutes to shoot in the arena, get a feel for the environment and wind conditions, and comfortable with the thought of the Olympic crowds.

Some archers at Rio 2016 competed at the test event in late 2015, so already had an idea of how the venue would look – but for others, it’s a fresh new experience.

London 2012 silver medallist Furukawa Takaharu was one of the first to try the Olympic field.

“I was surprised with the wind. There’s no wind at all and I think it’s because of the two big screens close to the targets,” said Furukawa, referring to the big television and scoring screens that are located to both the left and right sides of the targets at the far end of the venue.

“This is good because I can concentrate and focus on my shooting, and not the wind.”

While Slovakian woman Alexandra Longova agreed with Furukawa on the wind, the recurve women’s team from Chinese Taipei, who shot later in the day, had a completely different experience.

“The wind was strong and it wasn’t easy to control the arrows,” said Le Chien-Ying. “As a team, we practised deciding very quickly on arrows and trying to judge correctly when to shoot.”

Two of the Olympic first-timers in Rio, David Areneo from Malawi and Alexandra Mirca from Moldova were more taken in by the impressiveness of the Olympic experience.

“I feel comfortable shooting here. This is my first time at the Olympics and shooting this round, so it’s been good. The venue is so nice and my life changed just for being here,” said David, who was given a Tripartite invitation to the Games.

Mirca, who recently took mixed team gold at the Europeans, said the set-up of the two fields – in between the sweeping, parallel Sambodromo stands – was almost the same. The main qualification field is situated in the square at the end of the road, with the arena slotted in just before it.

“The finals field is kind of similar to the practice one, although smaller. What changes? I guess the position of the cameras and that there will be more people, but the rest looks the same to me,” said Alexandra. “This is good as it makes you feel more comfortable when going out there.”

The recurve men’s world number five, Dutch man Sjef van den Berg, said that not much had changed since the test event.

“In essence, it still looks and feels the same,” he said. “It feels nice.”

The archery competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games starts on the 5 August in the Sambodromo.