Olympic Preview: Target Sports

Target Sports are those sports that involve an athlete aiming some apparatus at a target, sometimes while the target is trying to fight back. The Target events can be split into two unique groups even though there are only three sports in the group. There are the two sports involving static targets that do not move and then there is the fencing events that stands alone as a competition between two athletes. These events show some of the most basic yet skilled sports in the Olympics. At the core of all three sports are some of the most basic principles in sports. For Archery and Shooting it is simply hitting a target with an object, and in the end it is about whether or not you hit that target. When you go outside of the core principles it becomes much more complicated as the ability to aim a bow while stretching a tight string backwards and releasing at the right time is very difficult. Shooting is the same as the ability to hit moving targets with a rifle is not a simple task to complete. In fencing the basic principle is essentially fighting another athlete with a sword which is a practice dating back centuries. Then again the ability to earn the win in a fencing match while another top-tier athlete is no easy task. These sports involve some of these basic principles but are also some of the most skilled in the Olympics. They are generally not sports of speed or power, not so true of Fencing, but instead sports of finesse and skill. To be a part of any of these three sports requires a very specific skill set making them some very interesting sports to watch.

 

Archery:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1900 (permanently from 1972)

Most Medals: South Korea, 30 (16 Gold)

 

Archery is a sport that has been around for centuries with roots in Medieval Times between knights. It began in the Olympics in 1900 but struggled to gain any traction for years as they were in the next three Olympic Games and then were not. It wasn’t until 1972 when Archery was finally put into the Summer Games as a permanent sport. It is a sport that rewards the finesse of the athletes. Instead of dealing with power or speed Archery rewards the patient and the careful who can focus on the finer points. Archery is also a very basic sport in terms of rules as the winner is simply the one who can hit the target more than the others. The competition has no divisions other than between the sexes and between the team and the individual competition. The individual competition is created as an elimination tournament with archers competing in head to head competition. In the team competition is much the same except that each team is made up of three archers that go against three opposing archers in the same match. Before each of the competitions there will be a preliminary round consisting of 72 arrows to determine seeding for the elimination tournament. For both the team and individual competition the rules are the same as each archer stands 70 metres, or about 230 feet, from the target where there are 10 different scoring areas. Each area is worth different points that go from 10 points in the middle to 1 point on the outside. The archers have 40 seconds from the time they step up to the firing range until they release the arrow. In the individual competition each archer receives 12 arrows to earn as many points as they can get with the winner of the head-to-head competition moving on to the next round. In the team competition each team receives 24 arrows giving each archer 8 arrows each. The competition is simple but doing it is much more difficult as being able to shoot an arrow 70 metres to the target while you are sitting beside your competitor is a tough situation. Archery is a finer sport that expresses what a Target Sport is and watching the skill that is involved in the sport is a treat that can only be seen in the Olympics.

 

Who to Watch:

South Korea Women’s Team

– South Korea has been a powerhouse in Archery and this year is no different as they will come in as the defending champions with 2008 Bronze Medalist Ok-Hee Yun and two-time defending champion Park Sung-Hung likely back for the 2012 Games

 

Brady Ellison (USA)

– He did not finish well in the 2008 Olympics but he has remedied any issues he had as he has won gold in the last two world championships and won the test tournament at the London facility

 

Canadian Content:

Crispin Duenas (Scarborough, ON)

– Last Olympics Duenas did not impress many people finishing in 36th place overall but was also a part of the 11th place team finish, a Canadian best, and will go in to the 2012 Olympics with a Silver medal from the 2011 Pan-American Games

 

Marie-Pier Beaudet (Levis, QC)

– In Beijing she was able to finish in the round of 32 and was also a key member of the Silver Medal team win in the 2007 Pan-American Games while most recently finished in 6th place in the 2011 Pan-American Games

 

Fencing:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896

Most Medals: France, 115 (41 Gold)

 

Fencing is the one target sport that does not exactly fit in to the rest of the target sports as the target in fencing is a bit harder to hit. Fencing is one of the oldest sports in the Olympics as it has been in the modern Olympics since the start. Fencing is a special sport that is a mix of aggression and finesse with footwork being one of the biggest aspects to successful fencing. It is a graceful yet aggressive sport that rewards the fleet of foot and the risk takers who go in at the risk of getting hit. There are three disciplines based on the type of weapon and differences in scoring including the Foil, the Sabre, and the Epee. In a foil competition fencers can only score by pressing the tip of the blade to the torso while hitting with the side of the blade will not score and hitting in the arms, head, hands, legs, or feet will not score and halt the match. In the sabre scoring can be done by the edges or the point and can be done anywhere, except the hands, above the waist with a strike below the waist halting the match. In the epee competition scoring can only be done with the tip but can be scored at any part of the body. The epee competition is also unique in that it allows the athletes to score points simultaneously while in foil and sabre only one point is allowed to score at a time. The competition is an elimination tournament where fencers are pitted against each other in matches consisting of 3 minute rounds. Every touch on the opponent, measured by an electronic system and judges, counts as a point with the first fencer reaching 15 points or the one with the most points after three rounds moves on. In the Olympics there are men and women matches in each discipline as well as team competitions in the foil for both sexes, the sabre for men, and the epee for women. It is another one of those unique sports that is rarely seen outside of the Olympics and is a surprisingly exciting event to watch as two fencers go head to head at a rapid pace but with complete control. It is a great sport that reaches an international audience once every four years and continues to thrill fans as it will this year in London.

 

Who to Watch:

Valentina Vezzali (Italy)

– She is the superstar in the fencing world as Vezzali has won an unprecedented 5 Olympic Gold medals as well as winning the last 10 World Championships in the foil and she will be back in what could be her last Olympics as she looks to become a 6-time Olympic champion

 

Sheng Lei (China)

– Lei has risen up the rankings in the fencing world as he is considered one of the best male foil fencers in the world and has a silver medal in the 2010 World Championship while helping the Chinese team to the Gold medal in the 2011 world championships

 

Yuki Ota (Japan)

– Ota is Lei’s biggest rival and has more experience with a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics as well as a Bronze medal in the 2010 World Championships and leading the Japanese team to a bronze in the 2010 World Championships

 

Canadian Content:

Sherraine Schalm (Brooks, AB)

– On the world stage Schalm has been a power winning the overall World Championship in the epee during the 2006 season and had her best Olympic performance in 2008 when she finished in 4th place

 

Shooting:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896 (permanent from 1932)

Most Medals: USA, 103 (50 Gold)

 

Shooting is very similar to archery except with gunpowder as it represents the more modern version of the bow and arrow. Unlike archery there are many more divisions as shooting is divided between three different weapons with three disciplines that are different for each weapon. In the pistol and rifle classes shooters are required to shoot at a target from different positions and distances while in the shotgun class the targets are shot into the air on the shooter’s command. In the pistol class shooters are required to shoot at either 10, 25, or 50 metres with a small hand gun. At the 10 and 50, or 10 and 25 for women, shooters shoot a standard pistol at a target with 10 scoring zones in a specific time. There is also the rapid fire pistol for men which is shot at 25 metres and uses the same scoring positions. The rifle is a similar scoring and competition style to the pistol while the difference is not just the distance. Instead the rifle shooters are required to shoot in a standing position from 10 metres and then from a prone position at 50 metres, only for men, and finally from standing, kneeling, and prone at 50 metres. The final weapon used is the shotgun which uses a different scoring and competition formats from the rifle and pistol. In the shotgun shooters stand in 5 different spots and go through a rotation of six shooters. For the single trap each shooter calls for his/her shot which launches a single clay pigeon at a randomly selected angle. In the double trap the process is the same except that there are two targets launched at with a one-second delay. In the skeet shooting discipline the process is the same except that there is a 0-3 second delay from when a shooter calls for a shot and when the clay pigeon is released with the shooter unable to lift his/her gun until the target is seen. In all three shotgun disciplines only one winner is announced after each event where the medals are handed out. Shooting is the modern version of archery with some differences as it takes something different to control a gun in the time they need to. It is a precise event that rewards patience and reaction time and is yet another Olympic sport that takes focus every four years.

 

Who to Watch:

Matt Emmons (USA)

– The Americans have been the country to beat in the shooting events and this year Emmons may be one of their best medal hopes after winning silver in the 50 rifle in 2008 and missing the gold by shooting the wrong target in 2004

 

Kim Rhode (USA)

– Another strong American shooter Rhode began her Olympic career as a double trap shooter but was forced to switch to skeet shooting when the women’s double trap was removed and still she has done well winning the silver medal in the skeet in 2008

 

Wenjun Guo (China)

– In Beijing the Chinese cleaned up in many of the shooting events including Guo who won the women’s 10m air pistol and will return to the 2012 Olympics seeking a repeat of her great performance last Olympics

 

Canadian Content:

Cory Niefer (Saskatoon, SK)

– An extremely focused and superstitious shooter Niefer will be making his Olympic debut after finishing in 5th place in the 2011 Pan American Games and will be making a transition from coach of the 2008 team to a competitor in the 10m air rifle and the 50m air rifle prone

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