Silhouette Archery Large BakuPurpleOne of the oldest sports in existence and requiring greater levels of skills, concentration and consistency than just about any other, archery, taking place at the iconic Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, is set to be a surprise package of Baku 2015.

With the history of the Caucuses, as in the rest of Europe, steeped in the art of shooting using bow and arrows, for survival as much as anything else, it is certainly not a sport requiring too much understanding, with the aim, as ever, to shoot as close to the centre of the target as possible, over and over again. But with the target in the Olympic recurve competitions taking place in Baku 70 metres away and only 122cm in diameter - with the gold "10" ring at the centre a measly 12.2cm - this is easier said than done.

This complexity was shown at the recent World Cup Final in Lausanne where, despite their rich pedigree, there were no European archers in either the male or female recurve finals, as Brazil, the United States, Mexico and China led the way.

The striking thing about the sport is how high the standard of shooting is, with nines and 10s necessary for victory and anything less simply not good enough to win. A new "best of five set" scoring system introduced in recent years, where archers are awarded two points for winning a three-arrow set or one point apiece if the scores are level, meaning that six points are required to win a match, has increased unpredictability and boosted excitement levels. It also means a huge number of matches are now decided by an even-more thrilling closest to the centre "shootout".

Similar excitement to a thrilling men's World Cup Final, decided via a shootout in Lausanne, can be expected ©Getty ImagesSimilar excitement to a thrilling men's World Cup Final, decided via a shootout in Lausanne, can be expected ©Getty Images

A total of 64 male and 64 female archers will feature in Baku across five events spanning individual, team and mixed team disciplines. Of these, 56 positions will be allocated through qualifying, with three awarded to the host nation and a further three Universality Places. All participants, however, must have met the Minimum Qualification Score of 620 for men and 600 for women by April 1 to be eligible.

As for Azerbaijian, with their highest ranked male archer, Taras Senyuk, positioned 178th in the world, and wife Olga the best placed female in 324th, their chances do not appear too strong. But with the current scoring system you cannot write them off completely.

This unpredictability has already been shown at the first, and foremost, qualification event earlier this summer: the European Outdoor Championships in Echmiadzin, Armenia. The top eight teams in the male and female competitions qualified for Baku automatically, with each also receiving three quota places for the individual events. After claiming both male and female titles, France led the way.

Yet on the men's side, both number one seeds Italy and defending champions The Netherlands missed out. They were beaten by Norway and Germany respectively, with Great Britain and Poland also losing their opening matches as Belarus, Slovenia, Russia, Spain and Ukraine took the remaining places. On the women's side, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Russia, Belarus, Denmark and Poland were the other qualifiers.

A further 16 quota places have been allocated to the National Olympic Committees of the highest ranked archers from nations which did not qualify through the team competition, with Denmark, Cyprus, Greece, Estonia, Moldova, Great Britain and Switzerland among others to have secured at least one place.

For everyone else, a final qualifying competition, set to take place alongside a Grand Prix Event at a yet to be confirmed location next March, will offer slots for the best ranked teams and for further individual spots.

No specific qualification will take place for the mixed team event. Any country that has a minimum of one male and one female athlete qualified is eligible to compete. However, only the top 15 teams from the ranking round, which will begin proceedings in Baku, will participate, as well as Azerbaijan.

Reigning European mixed team champion Russia will be looking for similar success in Baku ©2014 WAReigning European mixed team champion Russia will be looking for similar success in Baku ©2014 WA

The competition will also be a strong spotlight for the sport itself, with World Archery President Uğur Erdener having repeatedly expressed his wish to have a mixed team competition included on a future Olympic programme. A good performance in Baku will go some way to convincing his colleagues on the International Olympic Committee Executive Board that this is a good idea.

Although only events using the Olympic recurve bow will feature next June, it is also hoped that the more accurate compound bow, being showcased at the Asian Games in Incheon for the first time, will be added to a future European Games programme.

Speaking of the Olympics, there will be no specific qualification places available for Rio 2016, but world rankings points will be won, which will help with securing Olympic places.

But with the competition, taking place over seven days from June 16 to 22, nicely positioned in a month with no World Cup or World Championship events, all of the best archers from the continent can be expected.

It should be a top-level sporting feast.

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