Date and site of trials: Phase 1 of qualifying began in August in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the field has been trimmed to 16 (eight men, eight women). The final qualifying round, a compilation of six separate events, will be held in Stone Mountain, Ga., April 9-14.
TV: May 6, ESPN2, 7:30-8 p.m. (tape); May 19, ESPN, 1:30-2 a.m. (tape)
About the sport: Legend says the ancient Olympiad was founded by an archer named Hercules, and archers are proud to remind you of it. Olympic competition is slightly more complicated than the traditional Robin Hood square-off in the middle of town. Competitors try to out-shoot their opponents in a single elimination round. The 4.8-inch targets are 72 meters away. Each archer has 18 arrows and alternates shots every 40 seconds. When the field of 64 is narrowed to eight, the number of arrows is dropped to 12.
How qualifying works: The final phase of qualifying is simply a more condensed version of the preliminary rounds. The 16 archers will compete in a series of six selection events in which they will try to earn Olympic Round points, averages and wins. Based on their average scores, their total scores and the number of Olympic Round wins, the top three men and women will qualify.
The equipment: Unlike the sophisticated compound bows seen in hunting shops, Olympic archers must use standard recurve bows. These bows are much harder to pull even if made of materials like graphite and fiberglass. Arrows can be aluminum (more uniform vector) or carbon-graphite (fly faster). Bow strings are made from Kevlar, the material used to make bullet-proof vests.
Best U.S. chance for a medal: Jay Barrs, Salt Lake City, 1988 Olympic gold medalist; Judi Adams, Scottsdale, Ariz., '94 National target champion, '80 Olympian.
Did you know? Arrows can travel in excess of 150 mph. ... The average draw weight of a man's bow is 50 pounds (34 for women), which means that during an average tournament of 312 shots, the archer pulls 15,600 pounds (7.8 tons). ... Rick McKinney could become only the 13th American to compete in five Olympics.
_ ROGER MILLS