The Strong and the Silent

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Target archery is more than just about strength. SEA Games bronze medallist Tan Si Lie gives us a peek into the process of competition.

Photos: Dyan Tjia

One of the oldest contests of skill and precision in the world, target archery has also evolved with the times. It’s just one of the many disciplines and variants practiced, but it’s also the only one that is represented at the Olympics.

The outdoor Olympic competition format uses a 122cm target face placed 70 metres away, and the qualification round involves shooting a total of 72 arrows in sets of six at a time, known in archery-speak as an ‘end’. The competition then proceeds to an elimination round, where archers face off in head-to-head matches.  Athletes receive two set points for winning each set of three arrows. If both athletes score the same in a three-arrow set, they both receive one set point. The first athlete to reach six set points wins the match. It’s a fast and tense game of skill and concentration.

Other official formats include the FITA 900, which is shot at 60, 50 and 40 metres and gruelling standard FITA round, covering 144 arrows shot at 90, 70, 50, 30-metre distances.

The modern target bow is of a recurve design, with limb tips that point forwards. With the precision and detail required for competition, there is almost no wood used in the construction of modern archery gear. The main body, known as the handle riser, is made of milled aluminium alloy, and the bow limbs are made of carbon fibre and various synthetic materials for absolute consistency for every arrow shot. Stabilising rods are attached to the bow for balance and aiming stability, and arrows are made of carbon fibre over a hollow aluminium alloy core.

The draw weight, which is the effort required to pull back the bow, is typically from 38 to 46 pounds for men and 34 to 40 pounds for women. Beginners’ and training bows are much lighter and typically range from 15 to 25 pounds of draw weight, because to be any good at this sport, an archer has to develop a stable shooting form and foundation, before moving up to full competition distances.

Singapore’s most successful target archer in recent years is Tan Si Lie. A multiple SEA games medallist, he has also brought home medals at the ASEAN University Games in 2014 and the 2011 Indoor Archery World Cup. He is also the closest Singapore has ever gone to qualifying for a place at the Olympics, when he narrowly missed out at the 2011 Olympics Qualifier, finishing in eighth place overall. It was a tough result because only the top seven got through to the Olympics.
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“It takes around 18 months of disciplined, regular training for a complete beginner to reach a level of comfort and skill where he or she is ready to compete in the full distance events,” Si Lie tells us. “The attributes of this sport are perseverance, patience, mental stamina and skill. Strength and fitness are the foundation upon which these other parts are built, of course. You need to have the stamina to be able to shoot arrows consistently all day, and the mental strength to make every shot count. You do not fixate on the target but on your shooting form. Once you execute every shot with the same precision, all the shots will go where you want them to.”

The Sports Science & Management graduate reveals that his original career plan was to sign on as an army officer, but felt that with his experience in target archery, he would find more fulfilment as an archery events conductor.

Today, he runs Salt & Light Archery, an archery services provider that hosts everything from archery tag games for corporate clients to teaching beginners the basics of the sport. More information can be found online at, and the team host a wide range of archery-related activities.

“Archery is more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” says Si Lie. “Since taking it up in 2006, it has taught me many things about life. In target archery, the result is a direct effect of the process. It starts from the moment you place an arrow in the bow, to the draw, aim, release, and follow-through. If you simply fixate on the bullseye of the target but fail to execute the whole shooting process properly, you will never be consistent. It’s just like life.”


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