OGDEN -- The archers were lined in a long row, spaced evenly apart, and they raised their bows. One by one, they released their arrows into a gentle breeze. If they flew straight enough and true enough, the archers knew, London would finally be within their grasp.
When it was over, eight women and seven men had worked through crowded fields of competitors in Friday's individual Olympic qualifying tournament to secure their spots in next month's London Olympics.
In total, women from Greece, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Venezuela, Switzerland, Estonia, Iran and Philippines locked up Olympic spots, while the men's openings went to Poland, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Venezuela, Philippines, Kazakhstan and Slovenia. For countries that had failed to qualify a full team, it was the final chance to send an archer to London, giving the event a sense of do-or-die urgency.
"We're only five weeks away from the Olympics, so it's a lot of pressure for the athletes," said Bob Romero, president of the Ogden World Cup organizing committee.
The qualification tournament was part of the third stage of the World Archery Cup, which has been taking place at the Weber County Fairgrounds since Monday. The addition of the Olympic qualifiers, both team and individual, has made it an even bigger event than the previous years Ogden has hosted, particularly considering that for some countries it was one of the few opportunities to send an athlete, of any sport, into the Olympics.
Romero said Ogden hosting an event with such ramifications for archery was a special occasion for local fans.
"That just doesn't happen very often, especially in our sport," Romero said. "Having a world-class event in the United States for archery is pretty rare. We've not done many."
Giving credit to Ogden's sports-minded community, Romero said the qualifiers and World Cup competitions have showcased the city to the world.
"We've been told by athletes that this is the most spectacular setting they've ever shot in," Romero said. "Others have told us it's the best organized. Others have told us that the food is wonderful because it's more like home-cooked, rather than institutional resort-type foods.
"I don't know if you can get a better pat on the back than an athlete telling you that."
The World Cup will continue today and Sunday with individual and team finals at Lindquist Field. The events are free.