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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Lorig: 'Jennifer Lawrence was an archery natural'

By Khatuna Lorig

Khatuna Lorig, a four-time Olympian in archery, could adopt a new moniker: "Instructor to the Stars." Last year, Lorig, a native of the Republic of Georgia who represented the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Games, gave archery lessons to Jennifer Lawrence as the actress prepared for her role in "The Hunger Games." Lorig, who at 37 is aiming for her fifth Olympics in London this summer, described the experience to espnW:

A year ago I had never heard of "The Hunger Games." That all changed when I got a call asking if I would be interested in training an actress for an upcoming film by that name. I was told only that I needed to make the 20-year-old actress look like a professional archer so she could play the role of a 16-year-old character named Katniss Everdeen. I was completely confused. And I admit that I still had no idea who I was dealing with, even after I was told the actress's name: Jennifer Lawrence.

It wasn't until I asked my son to Google her that I realized I would be working with a Best Actress Oscar nominee (ohmygosh!). I may have been a little nervous, but right away Jennifer made me feel like we were old friends. She told me about "The Hunger Games" movie, and it wasn't long before she had me reading the books. I finished all three in less than a week.

Jennifer was much like any other archery student I've taught, except for the fact that we were more concerned with how she looked than whether or not she was hitting her targets (that's what special effects are for). As it turns out, she was surprisingly strong and good with the bow. With her physique -- she's 5-foot-7 with long limbs -- Jennifer had an easy time drawing the bowstring back, and she had a natural release that some archers only dream about.

You might expect a movie star to be high-maintenance, or to travel with a big entourage, but Jennifer drove herself to our one-hour practices at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, Calif., every day for the 15-day training stint. She was always on time and ready to work hard. In fact, one day she suffered some nasty bruises on her bow arm after she was snapped by the string. She told me it was one of the most painful things she had ever experienced, but she just slapped on some ice and kept going.

My own practice days typically last from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., so getting a chance to worry about someone else for a change -- and to train her for a movie role, no less -- was a welcome respite for me. Instead of getting nervous for our sessions, I saw them as stress relief. By the end of our time together, Jennifer and I were used to joking back and forth. Whenever I reminded her she is a star, she would say, "Are you kidding me? You're the four-time Olympian!"

If you've seen the movie, you can tell that Jennifer's hard work paid off. Thanks to the success of "The Hunger Games," the phones at USA Archery are ringing off the hook with people interested in learning more about the sport (and now I have a few more fans, too). Jennifer is one of them: She told me that when she sees me on TV during the London Games, she'll be yelling, "She's my coach!" at the screen.

I've been to four Olympics and I was the U.S. flag-bearer at the closing ceremonies in Beijing, but I can say that being a part of this movie is one of the top three best moments in my career. I'm very proud of my student -- and very lucky.

Learn more about the U.S. Olympic archery team at usarchery.org.