London: All the way from Errol Flynn to Kevin Costner, Hollywood has always been all a-quiver about Robin Hood and his trusty bow and arrow. Now the heroine of a science fiction romp has made archery a cool sport again. Thanks to The Hunger Games, teenagers are queuing up to try their hand and, with the huge media hype, the Olympics are helping to bring archery out of the shadows even more.
America's world number one Brady Ellison, whose American team lost a nail-biting Olympic final to Italy, said: "One of the great things about the Olympics is that it brings a lot of the smaller sports into the limelight every four years. It's a lot more popular right now. Let's hope it stays that way."
The Hunger Games, with Jennifer Lawrence as the feisty heroine with the deadly bow and arrow, was a box office smash when it came out in March. It was then followed by the Disney Pixar animated movie Brave with yet another bow-wielding heroine to give the sport a further boost. "I do feel like this year that with all the movies and stuff that has come out, especially in the States, we are getting a lot more recognition for the sport," Ellison added.
USA Archery reports that its membership has grown by almost 20 percent since last year with its youth division now the largest. Its website is being bombarded with queries from would-be William Tells. On Facebook and Twitter it is the same story - figures are soaring.
Hollywood has certainly played a starring role in giving impressionable teenagers some swash-buckling role models. Take Orlando Bloom as Legolas in the fantasy epic Lord of the Rings. Or the blue Na'vi people in the James Cameron blockbuster Avatar.
But it was The Hunger Games that gave archery the boost it needed and with sequels now planned from the best-selling Suzanne Collins books, the impetus is there to be maintained. USA Archery has certainly played its part in helping the sport hit the pop culture bull's eye. Cool and archery haven't always been synonymous. They are now.
Khatuna Lorig, now appearing at her fourth Olympics, gave Jennifer Lawrence lessons for the film in which one of the most spectacular scenes showed her shooting an apple from the mouth of a roasted pig.
Lorig, who has represented the Soviet Union, Georgia and now the United States at the Olympics, can certainly attest to how archery has become such a hit. "I have a friend who is coaching and he usually gets four or five calls a month about archery. Now he's getting 10 a week," she said. "When I train in North Hollywood you have to get there two hours early to get a chance to shoot. The kids from 6-16 are trying this great sport. We need to keep the kids off the street." And she is hoping there will be a knock-on effect all the way down the line in the education system.
"I heard from the universities and colleges that students who tried archery, their grades went up because archery is such a mentally disciplined sport that it actually helps you concentrate better on your homework," she said.