Ranking round brings archers together

11 September 2016
Rio de Janeiro (BRA)
Seventy-plus archers shoot in unison at the Paralympics to determine seeding.

The ranking round for the Paralympic archery competition can look a little chaotic, with 70+ archers – many in wheelchairs or sitting on stools – lined up all at once, shooting 12 ends of six arrows each at their targets in a four-minute time span.

Rio 2016 Paralympic ranking rounds yielded top seeds from Iran, China, Turkey and Great Britain, among others.

The Paralympic qualification stage feels unique – especially as most of the archers remain on the line as their arrows are scored and collected by agents and coaches. The line of archers talks among themselves as they prepare for the next end, with friendly music playing in the background. 

Then the horn blares to signal it is time to shoot and everybody stops and focuses.

There are 240 seconds where nothing can be heard but a constant rustle of athletes placing bows in their arrows, leaning back and the snapping sound when an archer takes a shot. 

“It can get pretty confusing all lined up,” Sam Tucker of the USA said. “I can tell that every time I reach back to grab an arrow I scare my the person next to me.”

For some, Rio is their first Paralympic experience, although they are familiar with the ranking field from previous competitions. Many of the veterans try to have fun.

“You try to make friends a little bit with the guy beside you and let him know he’s gonna lose,” Matt Stutzman said, jokingly.

They all know what it means to shoot at the Games.

“Every guy on this line is special,” said South Africa’s Shaun Anderson. “We’ve worked bloody hard to get here. When you stand on a line with these competitors, it’s an honour. You know you’re with the best in the world.”

Anderson had an equipment malfunction on his release during the ranking round, causing him to shoot part of it alone as he caught up.

It is not only the massive amount of people that can be an adjustment, but the venue as a whole. The ranking round takes place in the practice arena of the Sambodromo on top of a platform.

“I’ve never shot off a platform, usually just level,” first-time Paralympian Andre Shelby said. “It’s a different experience and a little bit more upscale, shooting from a higher level.”

For others, the platform can mean a change in their stability. Coaches, other athletes, judges, scorekeepers and the press walk behind the shooting range.

“The shooting range moves a lot so stabilisation is a big issue sometimes when you have the media and other teams walking by,” said Kevin Polish. “You have to be ready for that. You have to be sure that whenever someone is coming by that you know there is going to be movement.” 

Polish came second over the compound men’s open ranking round. 

Competition continues in Rio under the elimination format, where only two athletes or mixed teams compete at once in a head-to-head knockout on in the Sambodromo arena.

The para archery competition at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games runs 10-17 September in the Sambodromo.