'Hunger Games' boosts interest in archery

Archery has received renewed attention lately with the popularity of "The Hunger Games," a young-adult book trilogy written by Suzanne Collins that spawned a hit movie. The main character, Katniss Everdeen, is an archer.

"It's always been popular," said David Dragan, a longtime archery enthusiast who coaches for the Conejo Valley Archers. "It's one of those quiet sports. We don't toot our own horn. But right now, we're seeing a tremendous surge in interest because of the entertainment industry."

Don Smith, who works at Archery Sports in Simi Valley, agrees. Since the books have come out and especially with the release of the movie, his shop has noticed an increase in business, particularly among young women.

"I can't tell you what the percentage increase in our business because we can't get enough bows in here" to meet the demand, he said. "Now 'The Avengers' is coming out, and that's going to have archery in it."

With the coming 2012 Summer Olympics and the promise of Brady Ellison, Dragan said he expects to see another increase in interest in archery. Ellison, 23, has won numerous gold medals in both team and individual world competitions and is favored, Dragan said, for the gold in London

Another time Dragan saw archery become openly popular was after the 1996 Summer Olympics when Simi Valley's Justin Huish won two gold medals for the U.S. It was the last time the U.S. came home with the gold, and Huish is said to have inspired actress Geena Davis in her unsuccessful Olympic bid.

"Archery is completely ageless," said Dragan, who helped coach Davis and said she was a naturally gifted athlete. "But we've calculated all of this and we've determined that it takes seven years of dedication to the sport to achieve the top levels of achievement. That's thousands of hours of practice."

There are two types of bows in archery, the recurve, which is used in Olympic competition, and the compound shooters, which were originally designed for hunting. Newcomers are always started on a recurve bow.

"Most of the manufactured recurves come from overseas, and it's getting tough getting them in," Smith said. "There's been quite an increase in recurve bows."

Of course, the archers out at the target range at Tapo Canyon Park in Simi Valley on a recent Saturday morning weren't looking to earn medals. They just like archery.

Emily Nauert started working with a bow and arrows when she was 7. Now 15, she still enjoys practicing. Why?

"I don't have to be running around all over the place," she said.

(Contact Jake Finch at finchj(at)vcstar.com.)

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