It’s been rumoured this was going to happen for a while, but Khatuna Lorig, of the USA recurve team has stripped off completely, in spectacular shape, for the 2015 edition of ESPN’s ‘Body’ issue. It’s accompanied by a pretty interesting interview transcription.
(I’d say the accompanying video is safe for work, but… it depends on where you work, I guess).
“Archery Victoria’s president Irene Norman said its membership had shot up over the past four years from 777 members in 2010 to 1740 in February this year as it rode a wave of popular culture references that was drawing new members every week… It is not just little girls and teenagers either. Ms Norman said there were women in their 30s who came to archery clubs wearing Mockingjay pins.
“Sometimes I have to explain they won’t be able to get the effect they want if they use the same type of bow as in The Hunger Games,” she said.”
So it appears the ‘Katniss Effect’ is still packing them in to beginners courses around the world. This article is just one in a long line of similar newspaper and media features in the last couple of years, from the New York Times(twice) to NPR to the Guardian and the Telegraph amongst many others. It’s almost become a cliche – the interest in and take-up of archery, especially recurve and especially among teenage girls, has gone through the roof – what’s more interesting is that it seems to be sustained.
Jennifer Lawrence with US Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig, who trained her for the role. Photo: ESPN
The main problem for archery as a community is sustaining all that enthusiasm and interest when the fantasy meets the reality, probably via a battered Samick Polaris in a chilly sports hall. Some are directly engaging with this, such as the publicity work of Archery 360 for the ATA, but it may well be on the ground that people really needs nurturing. Often, people’s entire experience and future in target archery hinges on the personality of the local club secretary or archery shop staff – who might just be having a bad day, or (in the USA) may be busy explaining the penetration capabilities of scary-looking broadheads to a guy dressed in camo instead.
Everywhere, the image of the sport needs modernising. There needs to be an ever-simpler and clearer path to welcome a wider demographic to the sport from the groundswell of interest which, with another film due in November and Rio on the horizon, seems set to continue.
The entertainment in the film and the various others is just that – it’s not the sport – but it can take people places. I’ve mentioned several times on this blog why I think the ‘Katniss Effect’ is a good thing (with plenty of reservations about the posters, and I’m not the only one). I personally know someone who took up archery after watching the film only a couple of years ago, and last December made the cut in women’s recurve at the UK Indoor National Championship besting several current UK internationals in the process. It’s entirely possible that the Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020 (or even sooner?) will owe that original spark of interest to a movie.
A year ago today I went to Lords Cricket ground for the last of three sessions at the Olympic archery venue.
3rd and final session for me at Lords, the women’s individual final. The place is almost beginning to feel like home. I chat with some of the gamesmakers I’ve seen in the past couple of days. In a couple of days it will be Super Saturday, the finest day in British Olympic history and the trigger for an avalanche of gold medals for Team GB. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for the archery first team, which I wrote about here. The quarters and semis are good; I particularly enjoyed Khatuna Lorig’s gutsy performance, unfortunately Mariana Avitia was as inspired as Aida Roman and denied her the bronze. The amusing sight of the divided loyalties of the Mexican coach in the semis. The feverish Korean support in the stands.
But it came down to the wire. A shoot-off. Brutal. A lottery. A friend of mine described is as ‘like a darts match where you decide the winner as shooting to see who is closest to the bull’, and he had a point. It is too hard, almost ridiculous. There must be a better way that satisfies the needs of the schedule and the timings. Three-arrow shoot off? Total X’s? Another end then sudden death? All would be fairer. It reduces the sport.
There was an sound that is still with me of the flag eyelets, the symbols of the games, rattling on the top of the stands. A kind of gentle tinkling. Slightly exotic. I recorded some audio on my phone that day too, takes me right back, anyway. Here you go:
But the last shot seemed to sum up the whole day; close and narrow. No one dominating. When Ki Bo Bae shot first, she seemed to have finally succumbed to the weight of expectation, her coach massaging her shoulders. Actually, you could see her tension building through the day. The wind really picked up and swirled menacingly just before she went to the line, and she held for just a couple of seconds too long before sending down that eight. Everyone gasps. She shakes her head. The wind? Nerves? Who knows. It’s with the djinns.
So it was Aida Roman’s to lose. A she drew, and held, and held… and held… and held. The pressure had won. Normally fairly metronomic, she could not release. You could feel the shot slipping away from her. She held for nearly nine seconds, the clock gave her only three more and that eight wasn’t, of course, close enough.
Watch it again, if you can. You can see it going, in those few seconds. The tiny, tiny things that decide everything. Both of the Mexican women had shot brilliantly (and since then, their performance has been further recognised) but the tournament had gone back to the script. The place erupts. It was meant to be; capping an already dominant Korean performance and setting the stage for Oh’s gritty performance the next day. A great sporting moment. So, close. So, so close.
Today was a big club outing, we are all in a grand mood and we hit the pub and then a restaurant with the booze flowing. But I’m stuck with the image of Ki Bo Bae stood on the podium for the Korean national anthem, as the (correct) flag was raised, fighting back the tears. She seemed so tiny, and you could still see the mark of the string pressed into her face.