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Olympic Archery Rules and Judging

By Ron Dicker

(LifeWire) - The scoring is simple in archery, but as in any other sport involving intricate gear and precise results, there are plenty of rules and regulations. Even if you're not a champion in the standings, you can be a gold medalist on the do's and don'ts. Here's a helpful guide.

The Target

In Olympic archery, the target stands 70 meters (229 feet, 8 inches for the metrically challenged) away from the shooting line and has 10 concentric circles, beginning with the appropriately colored gold bull's-eye, which must be 1.3 meters (4 feet, 3 inches) above the ground. Like the bull's-eye, each of the four other colored rings - red, blue, black and white - is 12.2 centimeters (4.8 inches) wide and contains two scoring zones of equal width.

The Scoring
From the outside white ring to the inner gold at the center, the point total on the target ascends from 1 to 10 like so: white outer, 1; white inner, 2; black outer, 3; black inner, 4; blue outer, 5; blue inner, 6; red outer, 7; red inner, 8; gold outer, 9; and gold inner, 10.

Arrows that pierce the lines between the circles are awarded the higher score. Deflected arrows earn a score where they end up. Arrows that don't stick or that pass through the target also count. When an arrow rebounds, the archer signals the judge by raising a flag after finishing an end (a round of three arrows). If an arrow becomes embedded in another arrow (called a "Robin Hood"), the score of the first arrow is taken. If an arrow misses the target, no points are scored.

There is no do-over if a misfired or prematurely released arrow travels beyond an archer's reach; it qualifies as a shot. If the archer can stretch an arm to grab the arrow, however, he or she can shoot the arrow again without penalty.

If an archer releases one arrow too many, shoots out of turn or exceeds the time limit, the highest scoring arrow of that end is eliminated.

The Judges
Judges in archery generally do not have to make the kind of subjective calls that have caused such controversy in sports such as gymnastics and figure skating. Where the arrow hits the target determines the point total, and that's it. Judges officially allot the points, confirming the spot with a magnifying glass, if necessary. They also make the call as to whether an archer releases within the allotted time, which varies with the specific events. The judges' responsibilities increase in the team competition. They have to make sure archers stay in their designated areas and shoot the correct amount of arrows. Athletes can protest a ruling, but that doesn't happen very often.

The Specs
To be an Olympic archer, you can't just grab what's on the shelf at the local sporting goods store. All equipment has to conform to Olympic standards, and there is an equipment control check at the games. This is one of the technical sports where the little things matter: Arrow shafts must have a maximum diameter of 9.3 millimeters. Bow sights with only one aiming point are allowed, but they may not have any telescopic properties whatsoever.

If something is wrong with a bow or with arrows, a competitor is not allowed to test out his fixed equipment on the practice range.

The Accessories
Archers can tape their fingers or wear protective gloves
on the hand that pulls back the string, as long as doing so doesn't actually help them to shoot the arrows. The same applies for the hand holding the bow: A glove is OK as long as it doesn't actually do the gripping. Glasses are permitted, too, unless they have some sort of Clark Kent properties.

The Behavior

Archery etiquette includes no "coughing" while opponents shoot and no trash-talking. And with everybody armed, who would want to? Competitors pull their own arrows out of the target after each end, and the arrows are usually initialed to ensure that they are returned to the right hands. Athletes are mandated to wear their country's designated full uniforms, especially when an event is televised, but an archer would probably get a warning first about the correct attire before any measures are taken. Archers are more likely to run into trouble on the equipment front.

The No-Nos
They're called "Beta-2 Agonists" in the rulebook, but you might know them better as beta blockers, the group of heart medications that cheaters have been found to use in target sports such as archery and shooting. Beta blockers regulate the heartbeat, calming the nerves and presumably enabling competitors to focus better. It is said that athletes can fire off rounds between heartbeats for more accuracy. Naturally, beta blockers are prohibited, as are steroids, gene manipulation, diuretics and marijuana - in competition or out.

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LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Ron Dicker is a New York-based freelance writer who covered sports for The New York Times from 1996 to 2005.
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