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Another step down the road to Olympic Games acceptance of a compound category
By George Tekmitchov, Team Hoyt
Since 1 April 2011, World Archery (FITA) has implemented the revisions to the compound round first announced last year. As most compound target shooters know, the overall long-term goal is to provide for a level of differentiation from the recurve rounds so that World Archery can make a better case to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) for the possible future inclusion of compound to the Olympic Games, as a future, separate, added event from recurve. After the experiment at several major 2010 events with the first attempt at differentiation, a set system, hit-or-miss format, the current 50M revised round using straight scoring (72 arrows at 50M for qualification, 15 arrows at 50M for elimination and medals) was implemented, using the experience gained from the previous effort.
I spoke with World Archery Secretary-General Mr. Tom DIELEN, to review World Archery’s viewpoint on how things have turned out with the new compound round, and where it's heading.
Q. Since 1 April, there have been a number of events featuring the 50M round. It seems as if the shooting is at a very good level, and many of the shooters appreciate the challenge. How does FITA feel about the preliminary results of this round so far (in terms of popularity, spectator appeal, etc.)
A. It is still very early to make a real analysis but in general the feedback has been positive. The scores are quite high and we have our first perfect score in matchplay which is what the round is about. We want to show the precision of compounds and it is clear when you see the scores. The archers so far seem to like the 15 arrows rather than the set system. The TV feedback also has been positive.
Q. Has FITA identified any technical issues or other considerations that might be of interest to tournament organizers? For example, the rate of use of the faces, or the effect on target butts?
A. It is clear that we have seen that certain flexibility is necessary for the setup of the faces. We will very likely make a small modification to the rules in our June Council meeting that will give more flexibility in the face setup. We have seen that certain target manufacturers have made special target mats for the 50m round which we consider a very positive step.
Q. Do you foresee any further adjustments to the conduct of the round in the season ahead based upon the experience thus far, or has everything worked out as expected?
A. No changes except for the target face setup are discussed at this moment and are not expected. We need a certain stability in order to make sure that we will see this round used at local levels.
Q. Now that a perfect score has been recorded on the 15-arrow elimination round (May 2011), I assume FITA will start accounting for X-count for further new records. Was it any surprise that the round was shot cleanly after less than two months?
A. Of course the X count will come into play now. Frankly speaking it took longer than expected and most of our top athletes were not surprised. However to do it often will not be easy since the margin of error is small. And I don’t expect soon the 15 X mark to come. We are only at 6 at this stage. (Update- Team Hoyt shooter Jean PIZZARO (PUR) set a new record of 150/7X on May 22)
Q. As an aside, it seems to me that the availability of 6-arrow ends in the short half might drive scores up, and slightly reduce the time needed for a FITA round. Any thoughts on that?
A. Absolutely. The top athletes have been asking it for some time and keeping a rhythm of 6 arrows is probably going to take scores up. However it also means being ready for it physically. One conclusion from the major tournaments so far is that many more changes happen in the positions at the short distances than in the past. The time for sure is reduced. You can shoot the two distances in less than 2 hours where in the past especially 50m seemed to drag on forever.
What about equipment for the new round? Certainly, Team Hoyt's bow choices remain unaffected by the new round- after all, all senior compound World Records for the 50M distance are held by Hoyt shooters using current technology Hoyt bows- but with the maximum distance for compound now at 50M, it might be thought that the advanced, long-distance optimized arrows long favored by top FITA shooters, like Easton’s Pro Tour and X10, might not be as necessary for the new round (even though those also hold the 50M records).
Among the top shooters, though, the opinions on this are fairly firm. Team Hoyt’s Logan WILDE, one of the top-ranked shooters in the United States, points out that the biggest change he has seen is that a lot more top shooters- the vast majority of whom use the Pro Tour- are now also using the ultra-durable Easton G-Pin nock. “When you’re stuffing six arrows into an 8 centimeter 10 ring at 50 meters, the arrows take a pretty good pounding. The G-pin really saves arrows and prevents damage; it’s absolutely the best solution”.
A slight trend being seen is that a few shooters are experimenting with the tried and true Easton ACC and ACE arrows. “The ACC diameter is larger- also, the ACE is slightly larger, and what they’re trying to find is a balance between a slight line-cutter, without losing wind advantage.”
As for the round itself, Logan says “It’s grown on me- I was not a big fan at first, but we’re adapting. Eliminating the set system was great; it helps the better archers in the long run”.
I also spoke to Logan’s brother, the reigning World Champion, Team Hoyt star Reo WILDE, who told me:
“I like the round – talking to different people they have a hard deal going 70 to 50, but the scores are very high, with 7 or 8 149-150’s shot at one event, and it’s way better for venues. I firmly believe that now, if we went from 50 back to 70, more people would be upset about it- I firmly believe that.
Also, it’s the first time I ever saw (archers qualified) 1 through 8 were the same as those who finished 1 to 8th (place) – no wild cards! This is a good thing”.
On the equipment question, Reo said; “Really, I’m staying with my X10’s- I know what to expect from them and my scores have been extremely good at 50. In fact I’ve been using the exact same set of X10’s for five years now. But I might be trying some ACE’s later this season, when I have time.”
But, not all of the shooters who have been excelling with the new round necessarily love it. Hoyt Pro Staffer Jamie Van NATTA, who has set several new World Records with the round, still favors the former 70M round, even though she feels the new 50M round is a big improvement over last year’s set-based hit or miss round.
“I have mixed opinions about it. I like the return to cumulative score- I wasn’t a fan of the set system. I like that we’re back to a standard face, no hit or miss. Hit or miss, to me, didn’t indicate the more accurate archer. Overall, though, I find that 50m is really boring- we’re shooting near to perfect scores, in both qualification and elimination, and it seems to me that something needs to be done to make it more challenging.”
Jamie goes on to explain that the new round might appeal to the mental game of an indoor shooter- “indoors, it’s always “don’t miss!” Where, outdoors at 70, you’re “trying to hit the middle”. Maybe that’s why I really prefer outdoors!”
As to the equipment, Jamie says she plans to stay with her world-record setting Easton Pro Tour shafts. “Yeah, in a perfect world with perfect conditions, a little bigger arrow might give me a couple more points. But, at the end of the day in the real world, conditions are imperfect, and the Pro Tour gives me the absolute best scores. The heavier arrow and small diameter is the best choice for me”.
Another important point concerning equipment comes from World Games Champion and Hoyt Pro Kevin WILKEY. “A lot of top FITA shooters tend to optimize things like draw length and peep height- even the aiming dot or ring size they use, or lens power- for 70 meters. That also includes things like vane size. Before, if you had a great setup for 70, it might be a little compromised at 50 or 30 on things like peep height and anchor. So you’ll see a lot more optimization for 50 now.”
Experimentation- whether with a new round, or with equipment, can be a key to advancement. In this way it seems FITA has advanced to what is a successful round for the competitive compound archer on the road to possible future Olympic Games acceptance, while also offering some positive changes for club level shooters, and even tournament organizers. Meanwhile, on the equipment side, most top shooters will remain with the equipment they used to find success at both 70 and at 50 meters- with smaller, more efficient arrows like the Easton Pro Tour, and bows like the Vantage Elite on top of the list of choices.