GateHouse News ServiceMaggie Smith, a junior at Southeast High School in Springfield, Ill., started practicing archery before Katniss Everdeen and her hunting skills spearheaded a franchise into popular culture.
But “The Hunger Games” inspired 16-year-old Maggie, and she’s not alone. A record number of viewers tuned in to watch archery at the Summer Olympics in London.
Maggie took up archery when she watched “InuYasha,” an anime series. But she has since come to love Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” book (and now film) series, and the way the heroine, Katniss, uses her skills when she’s forced to participate in a televised death match against other teenagers.
“I can relate because I know how to (use archery) and I’m OK at it,” Maggie said. “I really do love the series. The books drew me in.”
The series “brings a new light to the meaning of fight” because Katniss isn’t fighting to win, Maggie said. She’s fighting to survive, something that inspires the teen.
In the movies based on the series, Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss, the main character and an experienced archer.
Katniss exudes “girl power” when she hones her abilities to eventually win the fictional life-or-death contest. Her enthusiasm and dedication inspired many girls — particularly teens — to start shooting bows and arrows.
More young people between the ages of 10 and 20 have come to realize just how fun archery can be, said Nick Robertson, sales associate and archery expert at Scheels All Sports in Springfield, Ill.
“We’ve seen close to double the amount of teens coming in (since the movie came out). I’ve had quite a few teens come in and look into it; quite a few just because of ‘The Hunger Games.’”
Robertson has been an avid archer for nearly 17 years. He said he sees many inspired teens and encourages them because it’s never too late to start a new hobby.
“If you enjoy it, get involved as much as possible,” Nick said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Capitalizing on a moment
Archery’s increased popularity put its competitive athletes under a new microscope.
More people than ever tuned in to watch the world’s best archers during the opening week of the 2012 Olympic Games, according to The Associated Press. Brady Ellison is ranked No. 1 in the world for archery and anchored the silver medal-winning U.S. team.
“The profile of our sport has never been higher,” he said in an Associated Press article.
An archery official confirmed the movies have fueled more interest in the sport.
“I think that really brought archery to the forefront, at least in the minds of the spectating public,” official Don Rabska told The Associated Press. “People are seeing it and saying, ‘Wow, archery’s cool.’ And with those movies in succession coming out bang-bang-bang drew a lot of interest.”
Team U.S.A.’s Khatuna Lorig trained Lawrence for the film and competed in the London Olympics, finishing fourth in the individual archery competition. London marked Lorig’s fifth Olympics. She earned bronze in 1992 in the team competition as a member of the Unified Team of the Soviet Union.
The next installment of “The Hunger Games,” titled “Catching Fire,” will be released in November 2013.