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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Olympic glossary: How modern-day archery pays tribute to the Robin Hood myth

Modern-day archers fighting for medals also do a Robin Hood. By no means a common feat, archerypassion.com rates each shot has a 1 in 4,000 chance of being a ‘Robin Hood.’

Written by Shahid Judge |
July 16, 2021 12:54:44 am
robinhood archery story, fishtailing archery, porpoising archery, archery olympics, archery tokyo olympics 2020, archery folkloreFact or fiction, the splitting-arrow story is the one that has stayed in folklore (image for representational purpose)

ROBIN HOOD

Tales passed down the centuries have romanticised the archery skills of Robin Hood. Modern competitive archery pays tribute to one such tale of the mythical marksman that’s titled ‘Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow’.

The story goes that Robin of Locksley is competing at an archery tournament where the prize is a golden arrow. His opponent’s final shot hits the bulls-eye. As Robin steps up for his final attempt, he too hits the bulls-eye – splitting the opponent’s arrow that was already on the target. It’s an achievement that has been dramatised and depicted in the 1991 Kevin Costner Hollywood flick Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Modern-day archers fighting for medals also do a Robin Hood. By no means a common feat, archerypassion.com rates each shot has a 1 in 4,000 chance of being a ‘Robin Hood.’ That’s how difficult it is, especially when you consider that the target, measuring 122 centimetres in diameter has a 12.2 centimetre 10-point ring and is placed 70 meters away. And there’s always wind and weather to factor.

Interestingly, another account about ‘Robin Hood’ claims that he never really split an arrow. In Slate Magazine, historian Thomas Ohlgren – who has specialised in Robin Hood texts – claims that the arrow-splitting story was a misunderstanding. Instead, Robin Hood’s companions would place a ‘wand’ (a small stick) on a platform which would split when an arrow is shot through it.

Fact or fiction, the splitting-arrow story is the one that has stayed in folklore. And it’s the one that is the most sought after – and the rarest of rare – achievement in the sport.

Fishtailing

The arrow is subject to numerous external influences during its 70-metre journey from the bow to the target. The most important of them is the wind. In the ‘glossary of terms’ published by World Archery, there are designated terms for an arrow’s trajectory. Interestingly, these are inspired by sea creatures. The sideways movement of the arrow as it flies forward is called ‘Fishtailing’. The term is derived from the side-flapping movement fish use from their tails in order to propel themselves forward.

Porpoising

The other term is named after a type of whale called ‘porpoise.’ The mammal, similar to fish, uses a flapping tail movement to propel forward. However, porpoises –whales similar in appearance to dolphins – have tail fins that are horizontal (as opposed to vertical fins in fish). That means porpoises flap their tails up and down. That tail movement has led the up-and-down movement of an arrow in flight to be called ‘porpoising.’

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