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Why is compound archery not in the Olympics?

India won an unprecedented 3 gold medals in compound archery at the World Championships this week. But sadly, compound archery is not an Olympic discipline.

Why is compound archery not in the Olympics?

New archery world champions - the compound archery team of Jyothi Surekha Vennam, Parneet Kaur and Aditi Gopichand Swami. (Photo credit: World Archery)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 5 Aug 2023 4:29 PM GMT

India have become world champions in any category of archery for the first time after the women's compound archery team of Jyothi Surekha Vennam, Aditi Swami and Parneet Kaur won India's first ever gold medal at the World Archery Championships (WAC) on Friday in Berlin. This was followed by Aditi Swami and Ojas Deotale becoming individual world champions.

However, compound archery is still not in the Olympics as it is believed the discipline does not adhere to the Olympic spirit of inclusivity and human endeavour. In recurve archery, for which there were Olympic quotas on offer at the 2023 WAC, saw disappointment for India.

The main difference between recurve and compound archwery is that the bows used in compound archery are more mechanical, employing pulleys and levers, thus reducing the impact of human abilities.

What is compound archery?

Compound archery bows were invented in the USA in the 1960s, as a more mechanically efficient form of archery equipment. The compound bow uses a levering system, usually of cables and pulleys, to give a mechanical advantage to the archer. With a compound bow, an archer only has to focus on accuracy.

Archery was reintroduced to the Olympics in 1972, when compound archery was still something confined to hunting and target practice. It was only in the 1990s that compound archery began to be seen as a competitive discipline. Compound archery made a debut at the World Archery Championship in 1995, only 26 years ago.

In 2006, compound archery made a debut at the Archery World Cup circuit too, with equal prize money, equal events and equal exposure.

Technical differences with recurve archery

Recurve bows are shot 70 metres from the target, while compound bows are shot from 50 metres.

Technology is the crucial difference between compound and recurve bow. Compound bows have magnified scope. It also has a mechanical release aid.

Recurve archery requires much more physical strength. Compound archery focuses primarily on shooting accuracy.

Olympic spirit

Compound archery has been excluded from the Olympics for two reasons. The first, which is gradually losing relevance, is the historical reason of compound archery not being seen as a sport because of the use of technology.

The second is the problem of inclusivity. Compound archery is more famous in the western world. In Asia and Africa, the technology required for compound archery is costly and not available. This is also a problem which is showing signs of decreasing. As much as 70% of the nations currently competing at the World Archery Championships 2023 in Berlin have fielded compound archery teams.

Road ahead for compound archery

Inclusion in the Olympics remains the ultimate goal for compound archery. The 2028 LA Olympics is being seen as the big opportunity, because of hosts USA's proclivity towards compound archery. An announcement on the new sports being inducted at the 2028 Games is expected to be made at the IOC meeting in Mumbai in October this year.

While Olympics remain a bridge too far, compound archery has been introduced in the Pan American, European and Asian Games.

Jyothi Surekha Vennam is optimistic about the compound's future. “This is something for which we have been waiting since long – to see the compound in the Olympics. Hope it gets the nod for LA2028," she had told The Hindu.

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