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Archer Khatuna Lorig wins gold at Pan Am Games

TORONTO -- If you've watched some of the more popular action movies of late, archery is prominent in many of them.

Whether it be Merida in "Brave" or Hawkeye in "The Avengers," those roles have sparked interest in the sport. "I saw Legolas in 'Lord of the Rings' and thought, 'Dude, that's the coolest thing ever. I want to be just like him," said U.S. archer Zach Garrett.

But Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games" might have been the most influential in recent years. "We've had record-setting numbers of participants at nationals the past two years," U.S. archer Ariel Gibilaro said. "I teach archery classes and when I first started before 'The Hunger Games' came out, we'd have like 10 people in a class. Now every class is full with more than 20 people."

And American archer Khatuna Lorig, who won a gold medal at the Pan Am Games on Saturday, had a role in "The Hunger Games," as well. She coached the movie's star, Jennifer Lawrence, how to shoot a recurve bow for her role as Katniss.

"It was fun," Lorig said. "What you see is what you get. She laughs a lot, she talks a lot. She got pretty good [at it]. I actually had to move her away from the target because she was shooting so close. She used a regular bow that was between medium and heavy. She did very well."

That's no surprise given her coach, who beat Colombia's Ana Maria Rendon 6-2 in Saturday's championship match to win the women's individual event for the United States.

And Lorig, 41, has continued her role as advocate of the sport, even with her movie-set training in the rear-view.

"Archery is one of those sports where you need to be physically strong and mentally strong," she said. "And you don't break your bones and hit your head on something. No one will shoot you, that's not happening. It's a great sport because you're building your body, because you're working it. You have to pull the bow string back, with your arm holding a 50-pound bow, and doing that 300, 400 times a day -- you do the math."

Lorig's background is just as intriguing as a movie plot. She was born in the Republic of Georgia when it was still a part of the Soviet Union. She has competed for the Soviet Union, the Unified Team after the USSR collapsed, Georgia and the United States after she moved here and became an American citizen.

"I have seen the world, my husband is an archer and my son is shooting arrows, as well," Lorig said. "If not for archery, I would probably be married and milking the cows in Georgia."

Lorig has been in five Olympics and is vying for a sixth next year in Rio. She won a bronze in 1992 in Barcelona, but has yet to win Olympic gold, though she was the U.S. flagbearer in the 2008 closing ceremonies.

"If you gave me the choice between winning a gold medal or carrying the flag, I would choose carrying the flag," she said. "I was so honored to do that."

She also was one of the athletes featured in the ESPN The Magazine's recent Body Issue. The shot shows her in the background of a forest.

"I was very worried about first my parents and then I have a very old school and family in my home country of Georgia. But I haven't gotten one negative comment on it," she said. "Even students, parents were very happy and proud it was done so well. All the photos of the other athletes were very close up and I was more in the middle of nature and these huge trees, and everyone just loved it.

"I worked out very hard and I tried to eat healthy for it. It was great. I was very happy to see myself with how it turned out."

Lorig's win Saturday adds to her collection that already includes Georgian, Soviet, European and Olympic medals. "I still need gold in the world championships and Olympics. I'm still collecting."

Lorig's win Saturday adds to her collection that already includes Georgian, Soviet, European and Olympic medals. "I still need gold in the world championships and Olympics. I'm still collecting."