5:30pm

Tue March 27, 2012
The Two-Way

After 'Hunger Games,' U.S. Archer Shoots For Olympic Games

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 10:31 am

This summer, U.S. archer Khatuna Lorig hopes to return to the Olympic Games. But she's already helped put archery into The Hunger Games this spring — by training the film's star, Jennifer Lawrence, to shoot.

In the kill-or-be-killed competition in the film drawn from Suzanne Collins' book, Lawrence's character, Katniss Everdeen, relies on her ability with a bow. And Lorig worked with the actress to ensure she had proper form.

"[Lawrence is] the best ambassador we have, a sort of Kevin Costner," Lorig tells reporter Alex Schmidt, for a story airing on Tuesday's Morning Edition.

"I think she's the one who's gonna make archery more visible. That's what's happening — and I'm very happy," she says.

It seems Lorig will have reasons to stay happy this summer. In addition to The Hunger Games, archery is featured in the upcoming Marvel film The Avengers (May 4) and the animated Brave (June 22), by Disney Pixar.

Lorig reportedly worked with Lawrence for about 10 hours. And she gives the actress high marks. On the Easton Foundations sports website, Lorig says that "after a few lessons, Jennifer was shooting about 100 arrows a day with an Olympic-style recurve. Her technique was great."

As for perhaps the most impressive shot in the film — in which Lawrence's character shoots an apple out of a roasted pig's mouth at a banquet — Lorig says the shot is one she and other highly trained archers could make.

"Yes, we can shoot the apple," Lorig told Wendy Bounds on the WSJ Digital Network. "We can shoot very small objects, no problem — from probably 80 yards, or even more."

Asked whether Lawrence is good enough to make that kind of shot without the aid of special effects, Lorig says, "She would need more practice, of course. Yes, why not? She could be."

These days, Lorig is focused on her own goal: earning a trip to London for the Summer Games. She competed in her first Olympics nearly 20 years ago, in Barcelona. Back then, she was on the Unified Soviet Team. She went on to represent her native Georgia and then the United States, where she moved in 1996 — first to New Jersey, and then to California.

Now Lorig wants another chance to represent the U.S. — she's the top-ranked American female archer. But she might not learn if she has qualified for a spot on the team until June, Schmidt reports.

Lorig also wants more people to give archery a try. She's been a fan of the sport for 26 years.

"Once you start shooting, you're gonna like it," Lorig tells Schmidt. "Come on, how can you not like archery? You have to be physically strong, and you have to be mentally strong. So what else do you need in your life?"

You can watch Lorig shoot online, during a practice session at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The top-ranked female archer in the United States is a woman by the name of Khatuna Lorig. These days, she's training almost full-time for the Olympics in London, and she's done some coaching as well. Among the athletes she worked with, the star of "The Hunger Games," Jennifer Lawrence, for the movies archery scenes.

Alex Schmidt went to watch Lorig's Olympic preparations in the Southern California city of Chula Vista.

ALEX SCHMIDT, BYLINE: When she shoots, Khatuna Lorig is a fierce mixture of relaxation and tension. She stands straight up in sunglasses and a hat pulled low over her eyes. Then, she lifts a huge bow, pulling back the string to a tension of 44 pounds. She's alone up here – can't count on any teammates for help - and she likes it that way.

KHATUNA LORIG: It's an individual sport. You shot, you ten, you gold and nobody can change. No judge can change that.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOW STRING PLUCKED)

SCHMIDT: She shoots her quiver at a target so far away I can hardly see the arrows.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOW STRING PLUCKED)

SCHMIDT: Amazingly though, she calls the shots: four gold in the center of the target at one o'clock; one red, the next layer out, at five o'clock. We walk over to the target. She was exactly right.

How did you know when we were standing back there?

LORIG: I kind of feel how I released. Shooting 26 years, I'm very much kind of knows - I know my 10 fingers.

SCHMIDT: It's been a long road to get to where she is now. Thirty-six-year-old Lorig was born in the Republic of Georgia and discovered archery at school, in the 6th grade. Times were tough when the USSR split up. Lorig would practice shooting in a basement by candlelight. In '96, she moved to the U.S. but missed the 2004 games because she still wasn't a citizen.

LORIG: Mentally I was very, very stressed at that time. I knew I could make the Olympics and because no paperwork to try for the U.S., kind of killed my dream for another four years.

SCHMIDT: Archery has struggled, too, with a lack of glittery star power. But things are picking up. Exhibit A: "The Hunger Games," with a female archer as the hero.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HUNGER GAMES")

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (as Katniss Everdeen) They'd catch us.

LIAM HEMSWORTH: (as Liam Hemsworth) Well, maybe not.

LAWRENCE: (as Katniss Everdeen) We wouldn't make if five miles.

SCHMIDT: Lorig herself trained actress Jennifer Lawrence for her role in the film.

LORIG: She's the best ambassador we have, sort of Kevin Costner.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LORIG: But she's the one. I think she's the one who's going to make archery more visible, which that's what's happening and I'm very happy.

SCHMIDT: Thanks in part to big cultural spotlights - Pixar's also releasing a film called "Brave," about a female archer – there's more teen interest in archery. Lorig says, no way it'll be a passing fad.

LORIG: Once you start shooting, you're going to like it. Come on, how can you not like archery? You have to be physically strong and you have to be mentally strong. And so, what else you need in your life?

(SOUNDBITE OF BOW STRING PLUCKED)

LORIG: Good shot?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

SCHMIDT: Lorig is training for the Olympics nearly full-time these days. But for all her hard work, there's one big hurdle left: She might not know if she qualifies for London until June.

LORIG: I'm nervous. I'm excited, can't wait. But I do have other things to worry about. I got a husband. I got kids, I got to coach people. I got to keep going shooting. I have to still live, right?

SCHMIDT: And that, right there, may be the trademark of a really good archer: relaxation and tension in the very same moment.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Schmidt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.