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The 2012 Ultimate Archery competition

Amidst the glow of the big games, the Huffington Post declared archery to be “hot at the London Olympics.” The Christian Science Monitor described the sport’s popularity as “surging,” particularly among American youth.

In the ‘Post piece, World no. 1 ranked Brady Ellison proclaims that “The profile our sport has never been higher.” And archery official Don Rabska is quoted enthusiastically as stating that “What helped was the movies, of course. I think that really brought archery to the forefront, at least in the minds of the spectating public. 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. … It was the perfect storm.”

The movies Rabska are referring to include recent releases Brave, The Avengers and The Hunger Games. One more pop-culture archery icon will be hitting the small screen beginning in October in the Smallville-spinoff Arrow, featuring the vigilante once known as Green Arrow.

A perfect storm, indeed. And such a perfect storm demands a perfect competition: Today, BuckBokai hosts the 2012 Ultimate Archery tournament. Representing Team USA in the tourney are Oliver Queen and Clint Barton; for Team Scotland, it’s Princess Merida; and garbed in the flaming black for Team Panem is Katniss Everdeen. After a brief rundown of the contestants’ profiles, we’ll get right to the action. BuckBokai.com > NBC.

Clint Barton
• Aliases: Hawkeye, Goliath, Ronin

• Bio: Orphaned at the age of six … circus trick-shooting attraction for 12 to 15 years thereafter … trained with the Swordsman … on/off relationship with the Black Widow (so it’s not necessarily a career highlight; sue me) … founding member, Avengers.

• Season highlight: Hawkeye scored at least 10.5 on his falling-from-a-great-height-while-shooting move in The Avengers movie.

Katniss Everdeen
• Aliases: none (yet)

• Bio: Hails from District 12 in Panem nation-state … no formal training, but sharpens technique with peer Gale Hawthorne … skilled hunter of small game … tied for first place in 74th Hunger Games competition.

• Season highlight: You mean, besides surviving the Hunger Games? What’s bizarre about Katniss vis-à-vis her character and the marketing of archery is that she actually fires very few arrows in the film; seven, if memory serves. She’s simply selling the sport based on Katniss’ status as An Archer and Jennifer Lawrence’s basic badassery. So BuckBokai will have to go with the apple, of course.

Princess Merida
• Aliases: Brave (Does anyone call her that?)

• Bio: First-born of Clan Dunbroch and heir in line to rule the Dingwall, MacIntosh and MacGuffin clans … archery skills most self-taught after initial training from King Fergus … first place (unofficial) in Highland Games archery competition … changed own fate.

• Season highlight: The competition-clinching favorite: Splitting the arrow sitting on bullseye.

Oliver Queen
• Aliases: Green Arrow, Arrow

• Bio: Origins are extremely variant in the DC Universe and, since not much exists on the upcoming TV version thus far, BuckBokai will go with this one: “After drunkenly falling off of his boat and washing up on an island, he became a hunter to survive. He was finally able to escape when he caught a group of drug dealers using the location for an illegal marijuana farm and turned them into the authorities” … specializes in trick arrows, i.e. those with functionality … member, Justice League.

• Season highlight: None thus far, but how can you not love this bit from the “Initiation” episode of the still imminently cool Justice League Unlimited? Sure, he missed the first couple of times; so you try and hit a bullseye at the heart of a nuclear-powered robot – after fashioning your own arrow equipped with carbon rod while on the run.

On to the competition, then, which will consist of five events.

• Costume – Right, so this isn’t exactly a test of skills per se but if one factor commonly unites the noble line of superheroic/fantastical archers since Robin Hood, it’s a sense of style. Everdeen gets particularly high marks here, as the breathtaking girl-on-fire ensembles began her inexorable rise in popularity during the 74th ‘Games. Also particularly nattily-attired is the Green Arrow, with his sleek verdant gear originally based on the Sherwood Forest hero.

Merida has the most gorgeous hair in the competition – no, the universe – but unfortunately cannot disguise the badly torn sea-green outfit which might otherwise get a higher mark.

Most disappointing – and the failure of this round – is the garb donned by Barton for The Avengers film. In the greatest tradition of cinematic superheroes, Barton’s colorful purple gear worn in the comics since the 1960s is eschewed in favor of (yawn) basic black. Boring and generic. Finish: 1. Everdeen; 2. Queen; 3. Merida; 4. Barton.

• Stationary targets – After a round of three arrows each, all four competitors quickly grow tired of splitting one another’s arrows enough. Barton hits three bullseyes blindfolded; Queen chooses to fire with his teeth holding the arrow. For fear of dragging out the competition for decades to come, the judges decide to move on. Finish: four-way tie for first.

• Field archery – A particular specialty of the ladies in the competition, as the Avenger and Justice Leaguer mostly find themselves plying the archery trade in urban environments. Queen is noticeably off in this round, afterward heard to be muttering, “Ah, anyone can do this stuff. Let’s see one of them hit a bullseye at the heart of a nuclear-powered robot – after fashioning their own arrow equipped with carbon rod while on the run.”

Round two sees the departure of Barton; Tony Stark subsequently denied having thrown off the Hawkeye by offering him well-wishes of “Good luck, Legolas” after the first cut.

In the end, Merida pulls off the surprising upset, just nipping Everdeen on the final shot. Merida’s victory may be attributed to her extensive familiarity with woodland environments and the mastery of her own fashioned course. Finish: 1. Merida; 2. Everdeen; 3. Barton; 4. Queen.

• Moving targets – Of course, ultimate archery observers will expect Merida to perform relatively poorly in this area, and she does. If only the 10th-century Pixar-universe Scotland weren’t so politically correct and the princess were allowed to actually shoot living things, she might have been better prepared for this bit of the competition.

Everdeen seems a bit unprepared for moving targets at longer distances, as particularly during the Hunger Games, the sole work she performed in this area – i.e. the slaying of District 1’s Marvel – was at short range. No substitute for a workout comprising of taking on the Bolt-like speeds of insane Norse gods or the colossal size of nuclear-powered robots.

Ultimately, Queen is disqualified after several rounds of tight marksmanship by both himself and Barton when finally his “accidentally” chosen explosive arrow takes out the final target. Queen is overheard to mutter, “I need to get outta here. Maybe take a road trip…” Finish: 1. Barton; 2. Queen; 3. Everdeen; 4. Merida.

• Stationary targets, moving archer – And here does Merida excel, taking out the competition which, though capable in motion, prefer to set before aiming. Everdeen looks utterly lost on horseback (Do equines even exist in the 22nd century or have they gone extinct?) and while Queen and Barton perform admirably well enough, this one’s ultimately no contest. Finish: 1. Merida; 2. Queen; 3. Barton; 4. Everdeen.

Totaling up the results in a descending four-point scale (i.e. four points awarded for finishing first in a given event, three points for second, etc.) results in a tie at the top between Queen and princess, which each having earned 15 points. As a tiebreaker, BuckBokai will employ that ultimate argument-finisher first laid down in Stand by Me.

So, there’s no way a cartoon can beat a real guy (coming soon). The 2012 Ultimate Archery Competition gold medal goes to The Green Arrow, while Princess Merida is awarded the silver; Everdeen ends up squeaking out Hawkeye for the bronze.

That’s all for 2012; for more superheroic archery skills, stay tuned for the CW’s Arrow, Hunger Games 2, Avengers 2, probably a Hawkeye spinoff movie … damn, archery *is* a big deal…

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