Alejandra Valencia with Luis Alvarez in the background.
The Mexican sports pages have been filled with news this last couple of days saying that Alejandra Valencia had been “queda fuera del equipo nacional“ i.e. dropped from the national team, after she apparently failed to attend a training camp in Mexico City prior to the country’s first Olympic squad selection trials.
Senior coach Lee Wong said: “Alejandra Valencia did not show up and therefore her right (to be automatically selected) was lost, and now she must compete on Saturday and Sunday to re-enter.” It seems she is able to join the other athletes invited for selection, but has been knocked down a level or two.
Alejandra said to the press: “I was never sent official notice of anything, just by WhatsApp. If they had given me a plan of what will happen, I would not complain and accept it… but I did not receive anything. ” She also stated she has not had any sporting interactions with the head coach at all.
It appears that Alejandra received a message on short notice through WhatsApp for an pre-training camp meet in Mexico City for the Games selection, but not any official notice or details, and then either “refused” to go or simply did not have enough notice to drop school and family to do so. Reports in the press seem to indicate a lack of clarity in the selection process, or at least a failure in communications.
Ale’s main concern is that she wants to train at home in Sonora with her own coach (where the conditions are apparently very similar to Rio) rather than remain at a lengthy training camp, which is reportedly supposed to continue right up until the Rio Games.
Some of the other athletes have spoken out about the lengthy training camp with an interesting mix of determination and resignation. Luis Álvarez said: “It’s not about being comfortable, it’s about doing what you have to do, wherever and whenever that is.” Karla Hinojosa said “I had to leave my school, my family, my coach and my boyfriend, with the goal of realising my dream of making it to the Olympics.”
Senior coach Lee Wong seems to be very invested in conditioning the archers to train in Rio-like conditions. Once the training center in Mexico City closes at the end of the year, the archers will move to a camp in Playa del Carmen (on the Yucatan Peninsula) for the heat and humidity; the archers will also be headed to Vegas in January and the final national team will be determined at the conclusion of the early 2016 World Cup stages.
There have been well-documented issues in Mexican archery recently, with ongoing financial and management issues between the governing body and the national Olympic committee (CONADE). Whether this issue is related to that drama is unclear.
Many elite athletes have succeeded at the Games over the years by staying outside (or partially outside) an official programme, and many others have been deselected for the same reasons. It would be a disaster for Mexico if their women’s squad – a good shot for a medal – lost one of their strongest competitors with Olympic experience, and the sport generally would be much poorer without Ale, the 2011 Pan-American champion. Let’s hope Mexican archery gets its act together as soon as possible.
A long-running saga in Mexican archery seems to have publicly erupted. It appears that elite Mexican archers have been in a dispute for some time with the Mexican federation, partly due to a lack of funds.
On their return from Poland, Alfredo Castillo (centre), who represents CONADE – the Mexican government agency for Olympic sport – met with some of the athletes and publicly stated he would support them against the archery federation. He tweeted that he had reiterated to them that the funds were there to support them, not “intermediaries” and that he would ask World Archery to cease recognising the Mexican archery federation because of the current mismanagement. The body language in the picture (above), however, seemed to hint of what was to come.
Castillo appears not to be popular with the Mexican sports public – especially if this set of Facebook comments is anything to go by. This one looks like it might run and run, and unfortunately, Mexican archery is probably going to be the loser.
Thanks very much to Dario Maciel for extensive assistance. Do you have any more information? Get in touch.
I’ve moaned about bad archery in advertising and TV etc. half a dozen times already on this blog, and recently on Facebook too. Don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t really matter, but my take on it is pretty simple: All archery is good for archery, but it’s almost as easy to get it right as wrong. Isn’t it?
[RANT] This is the thing: I believe people tend to recognise authenticity when it is put in front of them. When something technical is presented (especially on TV) you can always tell when you are seeing an expert doing something rather than just a model, and with archery-based ads that little gleam of reality is only going to enhance the image of rugged individualism / ‘aiming high’ / ‘hitting the target’ etc. that they are trying to project with the product. It’s not like ‘finding an archer’ is going to be the most difficult or expensive part of the production… and some advertisers have done it. [/RANT]
Alejandra Valencia, 19, has been part of the Mexican recurve team since 2011. She won two gold medals (team and individual) at the Pan American Games in 2011, and qualified for the World Cup Final in Paris last year. She is currently in Legnica in Poland shooting at the World University Championships. In English y Español (véase más abajo).
How do you keep calm just before you are going to shoot?
I breathe – and then I concentrate on what I am going to do. I just focus on my technique.
Do you have any particular warmups or rituals before going to the line?
No, I only do the normal sorts of warmups, and then I just get ready!
What would you do to raise archery’s profile for the public?
It would be good to have more broadcasting of the competitions, maybe give more exhibitions in places, things like that.
Is there a version of the sport that could attract new audiences?
Well, what is happening right now with the movies that are being released, recently there was that streak where almost all the movies had someone using a bow and arrow, that helped a lot for people to get to know archery – that is going to be the thing that helps people know the sport and get interested in it.
What is your favourite sport apart from archery and why?
I like all sports, really. I can’t choose anyone in particular. Sorry! :S
Alejandra Valencia at the World Cup finals, Paris, 2013.
What is your greatest strength?
My greatest strength, maybe, would be that I am very calm when I am doing things, so I don’t panic easily.
What does an ordinary day in your life look like when you are preparing for a tournament?
I go to university in the mornings and train in the afternoons, although sometimes I train in the mornings before going to school. That’s it.
What is the best advice you have given to someone else?
Hmmm… I would say “train as if you were competing and compete as if you were training.”
Do you believe in luck?
What is your favourite country you have visited through archery?
Hmmm…. I think that Holland is nice. I like Amsterdam very much, I’ve only really been there for four hours, but it’s very calm, very clean and very beautiful.
What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?
A perfect Sunday would be to sleep late, peacefully, no homework, no worries, and being with my family in the afternoon.
Why do you keep doing it?
Why do I continue doing archery? I don’t know – perhaps because I get a lot of fun out of it, and I never get bored!
What are you drawing next? (Alejandra was drawing a new picture on her Facebook page every day)
LOL… well, that was a challenge to draw something new every 30 days, but I lost it! But I’m always drawing something, every day. I love to draw.
¿Como mantienes la calma cuando vas a tirar?
Respiro y me concentro en lo que voy a hacer, me enfoco en mi técnica.
¿Haces algún calentamiento? Kabala? Ritual?
No, solo hago el calentamiento normal y despues me alisto para tirar.
¿Qué harías para dar a conocer a dar a conocer a más personas el perfil de un arquero?
Tal vez teniendo mas difusión en cada competencia, dar exhibiciones en lugares o cosas así.
¿Hay alguna versión o algo diferente del tiro con arco que tú crees que pueda atraer a un nuevo público?
Lo que orita esta funcionando son las peliculas que estan saliendo, hace poco hubo una racha donde casi todas las peliculas tenian a alguien que usaba un arco y una flecha, eso ayudo mucho a que la gente conociera este deporte y se interesara por el.
¿Cuál es tu deporte favorito aparte del tiro con arco y por qué?
Todos los deportes me gustan, no podria elegir uno en especial :S
¿Cuál es tu mayor fortaleza?
Mi mayor fortaleza sea, tal vez, que soy muy tranquila en cuestion de hacer las cosas, no entro en pánico fácilmente
¿Cómo es un día común en tu vida cuando te estás preparando para un torneo?
Voy a la escuela en las mañanas y entreno en las tardes, a veces entreno en la mañana antes de ir a la escuela
¿Cuál es el mejor consejo que has dado?
Hmm…. yo creo que seria el de ”entrena como si compitieras y compite como si entrenaras”.
¿Crees en la suerte?
Tal vez, si.
Cuéntanos como es un Domingo perfecto para tí.
Un domingo perfecto seria dormir tranquilamente hasta tarde, sin tareas, ni preocupaciones y poder estar con mi familia en la tarde
Cuál es tu país favorito, en el que hayas estado, para tiro con arco, y por qué?
hmm… yo creo que holanda, me gusto mucho amsterdam y aunque solo estuvimos 4 horas la ciudad estaba muy bonita y tranquila, ademas de limpia
¿Qué te mantiene practicando el tiro con arco?
que me mantiene tirando? no se, tal vez sea porque me divierte hacerlo y no me aburre
¿Cuál será su dibujo mañana?
Jajaja… pues eso era un reto de dibujos de 30 días pero lo he perdido, pero yo siempre estoy dibujando algo nuevo cada día. Me gusta dibujar.
Pictograms have been a part of Olympic design since they were first formally introduced at Tokyo ’64 – although they were employed by the IOC before that and have been a part of human communication since human beings have existed.
The stylised figures are designed to communicate information to all languages and cultures simply and unambiguously. They have to work at all sizes and in negative. In the connected 21st century they may be less vital to worldwide Olympic communication, but they are still a cornerstone of Olympic design, and often as a specific cultural expression too.
Here’s the Winter set for Sochi, just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about:
The Sochi set is based on the pictograms for the Moscow 1980 Summer Games. Come with me, and let’s have a look what designers worldwide for the Summer Games have come up with for the world’s oldest sport.
The first systematically designed set of pictograms for both sports and services was created for the Tokyo Games in 1964 by Masasa Katzumie and Yoshiro Yamashita, although there wasn’t an archery competition that year. This guy is a bit heavy-set for an archer, kind of Oh shaped, but no athlete comes across as very elegant in this set. Full marks for a quiver though, the last design that would bother. Not sure what’s attached to his hand though.
There wasn’t an archery competition this year; the ‘target face’ below is for the shooting competition. Shame, because Mexico ’68 remains my favourite overall Olympic design by some distance.
MUNICH 1972 and MONTREAL 1976
The pictograms designed by Otl Aicher for the Munich games were re-used four years later, and the full set is considered a design classic, endlessly copied and hugely influential on all that came after. Best of all, the archery competition was reintroduced after a 52 year absence. Unlike all the other little guys, we have someone shooting from behind. The head shouldn’t be at that angle, and the legs are waaah, but hey. It gives the impression of full draw, of effort. Of movement.
Nikolai Belkow won the competition held amongst students at Moscow art colleges to design the full set. Big stance, and rear elbow at some sort of realistic angle. The alignment is strong and relaxed. The flatter, rectangular shapes used that year added dynamism. Damn, this one is good. Also gave rise to a frankly covetable pin:
LOS ANGELES 1984
Not much to write home about here. Does the job, I suppose. Designed by Keith Bright, this was the first Games where a specific design brief has been handed down along with the full set, which is worth a read:
Clear communication; pictograms, by themselves, should be recognizable by people of other nations.
Consistency; the pictograms should be identifiable as a set, through uniform treatment of scale, style and subject.
Legibility and practicality; they should be highly visible, easy to reproduce in any scale and in positive or negative form.
Flexibility; the pictograms should not be dependent upon a border and should work equally well in a positive or negative form.
Design distinction; the pictograms should avoid stylistic fads or a commercial appearance and should imply to a worldwide audience that Los Angeles has a sophisticated, creative culture.
Compatibility; they should be attractive when used with their Los Angeles Olympic design elements and typestyles.
Via 1stmuse.com, here is some detail on how designs like these evolve: “In creating the new pictograms, exploratory sketches examined the use of partial figures, realistic figure images and speed lines combined with the figures. It was concluded that partial figures and realistic figures were difficult to decipher and movement associated with the figures made them too busy and impaired legibility. A simple figure composed of 10 fundamental body parts worked well: a circle for the head, an oval for the torso and eight simple parts representing the arms and legs. This modular figure, when placed against a grid pattern, could be recreated in any desired position, effectively portraying any Olympic event.”
Full set here. Not much of an improvement on LA. I suppose the elbow is ‘better’. Once again, the designers used a standardised geometric pattern for the head, torso and limbs, with a slightly curious ’empty’ torso. This had excellent clarity and economy, especially in negative. But the retreads on 1972 were getting a bit tired. Luckily, four years later…
For the Barcelona Games they brought back in pictogram hero Otl Aicher. He based his work on the great logo design of Josep. M. Trias and its representation of the human body in three parts, with a broad brush stroke. This thing moves. It’s like someone dancing while drawing a bow. Great job. Full set here.
This archer is actually pretty good, poised firm, with his short bow and strong ‘open’ stance, but it’s a bit of a mixed year otherwise:
The canoe kayak looks like a trouser press, the handball looks like basketball, the wrestling like pat-a-cake and the judo like one of those Rorschach inkblots. Must try harder!
Again strongly based on the main Games logo, every single one of the full set of pictograms incorporates at least one boomerang. Was this really necessary? It obviously became a bit of a personal design challenge at points. Mr. Archer looks a bit heavy in the lower regions. Either that, or he’s wearing MC Hammer trousers. Full marks for the nods to an actual recurve bow, and the colour.
The Creative Repository states this: “The Athens… pictograms were inspired by three elements of ancient Greek civilization. The simplicity of the human form is inspired by the Cycladic figurines. The artistic expression of the pictogram derives from the black-figure vases, where solid black shapes represent the human body and a single line defines the detailing of the form.” I say Mr. Archer lacks a bit of energy. Meh. Full set here.
The design team based the pictograms on an ancient Chinese script. Full set here. Immensely simple, joyful, and communicative. First class. This also marked the first year that a full set of pictograms was designed for the Paralympics, with similar grace and economy:
The year the world turned purple. Well, we finally have an ‘Olympic’ recurve bow, with a sight (set to about the right place!) and a stabiliser. Terrible technique though, leaning back – either that or the perspective is a bit unclear. The riser does look a lot like a classic chunky Hoyt Gold Medalist or very similar:
…which suggests that the designers were looking at some very old pictures when they blocked it out.
Full set here. “The pictograms are set within pebble shapes, “which are a characteristic of Rio 2016’s visual language, support the designs and alter their shape according to the athletes’ different movements.” Righto. I’m guessing the designers were finally looking at some arrow-leaving-the-bow-shots when they conceptualised this, a product of the high-speed digital photography age. I do love the taekwondo one, more than the slightly un-dynamic archery designs:
The Tokyo pictograms, created by a team led by Japanese designer Masaaki Hiromura, were finally unveiled on 12 March 2019, and the bare-bones archery one is looking strong .The draw with the anchor point ‘below’ the head just possibly might be giving a nod to kyudo, the traditional Japanese archery martial art.
The traditional feel extends to the simple arc shape of the bow, although a kyudo bow is asymmetrical. It looks more like a longbow. Actually, it looks most like a PVC pipe bow than anything else. (It should be noted, if you scroll back up, that only a tiny handful of designs have depicted a recurve bow).
It communicates the sport well, although archery is lucky in that it has a single universal symbolic image to depict – several other Olympic sports, such as wrestling and modern pentathlon, struggle to be squeezed into a tiny square.
This is the Paralympic pictogram:
The full set is below:
On first impressions, I don’t think Hiromura has delivered a classic set for the ages. It’s kind of a hybrid, taking the basic body part vector building blocks of Aicher et al (see above) and tries to impart in them a bit of grace and movement. There’s a focus on the athletes more than the sports these days, and a set like Mexico ’68 (still, in my opinion, the greatest complete piece of Olympic design ever) wouldn’t get through a committee.
The Tokyo set is also kind of a ‘greatest hits’ of Olympic pictograms. Many seem to nod back to previous sets, especially Atlanta ’96, which appears to have been the inspiration for several, including, perhaps, our square-on archer.
The taekwondo one seems to be borrowed from Rio (scroll up). However, he has come up with a few originals. I really like several of them: baseball and table tennis especially. And full marks for a blank-slate attempt at skateboarding. But modern pentathlon and triathlon? They look like something you’d wipe off a kitchen surface.
As a complete set, it is a little conservative. You feel it could show a little more personality, a little more of the host nation. And the design exercise can add a little colour and joie de vivre to the meet – this brilliant and fun Jelly Babies set from the last Youth Olympic Games proves it.
But after the debacle of the logo a couple of years back, it is clear that the LOCOG design committee in Japan are taking no chances.
Pictograms are a major undertaking these days, particularly as each one now has to be approved by each sporting federation. The Tokyo ones apparently took two years from start to finish. As well as the individual sports, pictograms are produced for all sorts of ancillary Games services – some more successfully than others. Designers in the internet age now come up with their own sets which they hope will go viral. You may enjoy this video by Steven Heller, too.
This post has been heavily reliant on work done by the Creative Repository, the works of 1stmuse.com here, Olympic-Museum.de, and many other helpful uploaders. Thanks very much!