Hunger Games and Olympics spawn new generation of archery fans
The Hunger Games heroine, Katniss – and the coming Olympics – have created a boom in the archery business, as all across the country a new generation of young archery enthusiasts polish their prowess with the bow and arrow.
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Bobbi Bowles owns archery shop K.C.'s Outdoors with her husband in Spicewood, Texas, outside Austin. Sales of equipment have doubled in the last few weeks, she said, and they're adding beginner classes to accommodate more new recruits young and older.Skip to next paragraph
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At the Austin Archery Club, "The movie is sending a lot of people our way who are interested in archery, the crossbow and survival skills," said a director, Roy Wenmohs. "At a recent tournament we had about 10 young people, from ages 10 to 15," he said. "About half were new. Last year we had three."
Games of a different sort are hoping for a "Hunger Games" bump come July, though kids in North America looking to catch Olympic archery will likely be sleeping during live competition.
"We're thrilled with the awareness and the excitement that 'The Hunger Games' has brought to the sport of archery," said Denise Parker, CEO of USA Archery, the U.S. training and selection body for the Olympics, Paralympics, Pan American Games and other world events.
"We're already receiving feedback from our youth clubs that interest in archery programs in their areas is up significantly," she said.
Alexis Fleming, 14, in Manor, Pa., has Olympic dreams. She shot last fall as part of the Junior Olympic Archery Development program after first picking up a bow through 4H.
"I like the fact you can ignore the world around you and just focus on where the arrow is going to go," she said.
Nicole Donzella, 15, may not be Olympic bound, but she knows her way around a bull's-eye and plans to DVR archery from London.
Her dad, hunter Bart Donzella, got her started in the sport at age 5, and later her younger sister, leaving "girly girl things" to their mother while he bonded with them through kayaking and other outdoor activities.
"I had a little mini-bow. It was really cute. I shot from five yards back then," Nicole said.
Now up to 20 yards with a top score of 298 out of 300, she shoots weekly in the same youth league as Gabby at Targeteers in northern New Jersey.
"I like that it's an individual sport but at the same time there's other people around you so you can still socialize," said Nicole, from nearby Fair Lawn. "It's the only thing I'm good at and it's really nice to do with my dad."
She's a Katniss fan, too. "I like that she's making archery cool."
Targeteers owner Rob Cerone said he averages five or six archery birthday parties a month, up from about half that six months ago. He's filling up early for weeklong summer camps, where he teaches kids how to shoot, make their own arrows and put a bow together.
"The Hunger Games have helped, especially with the girls," Cerone said.
Richard Johnson in Manchester, Conn., has archery in his blood. His dad, Butch Johnson, is hoping to qualify for the London Games and become one of just a few Americans to compete in six Olympiads. He brought home gold in 1996 and team bronze in 2000.
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At Hall's Arrow Indoor Archery Range, where the younger Johnson is business manager, the Katniss bump is alive and well. "We've had a lot of parents saying, 'Hey, little Johnny has seen this movie, what do I have to do to get him into archery?'"
The Johnsons are looking ahead to summer, hoping the profile will be higher for Olympic archery this time around and anticipating the Pixar-produced "Brave." The fantasy in 3-D computer animation features another young, headstrong archer, Merida, who brings chaos to her kingdom in Scotland.
"We had such a good boost after 'Hunger Games,'" Richard Johnson said. "The same thing could happen."
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