The Secret to the Best Bows in Olympic Archery

It's all about consistency.

Getty Images / Paul Gilham

The bows of Olympic archery are far from the ones of Robin Hood, Katniss Everdeen, and Clint Barton. In fact, Olympic archers tend to favor bows that the Arrow uses to bring down criminals in Starling City. We’re talking compound recurve bows with brightly colored central risers.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Ki Bo Bae of Korea competes in the Women's Team Final between Korea and Russia on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Sambodromo on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Getty Images / Paul Gilham

Here’s the biggest problem with bows in archery: They fit together differently every time you put them together. Bows have to be collapsible for travel and are roughly between five and six feet long, so depending on how tightly you screw parts back together, there can be a difference of millimeters that can really throw off your game. So the challenge for high-level archers is to find bows that athletes can trust to work exactly the same, no matter how often they’re used, says Joe McGlyn, a top level Olympics-style archer and one of the owners of Pro Line, an archery range in Queens.

For the U.S. Archery team, the bow that fits the bill is the Hoyt Prodigy. According to McGlyn, this particular bow is favored because “they fit together the same way every time.” It is also the lightest bow made by the company, which gives archers more flexibility in adding the weight they prefer to the bow.

So this is the most consistent bow. But is it one that can withstand the higher temperatures of Rio de Janeiro? McGlyn doesn’t think it’ll be a problem. “They are very well versed in how their equipment will work in Rio,” says McGlyn. “Local weather factors will have little to no effect on their equipment.”

This wouldn’t necessarily be true if archers were using the solid wooden bows of the fantasy worlds, which would be affected by the heat and humidity. But hey, for situations in the cold tundras of dystopia, we’ve got Katniss’s badassery.