Forty miles northeast of the hubbub in Montreal, as the crow flies, 64 archers from 25 countries assembled in the quiet hamlet of Joliette to shoot 72 arrows daily last Tuesday through Friday. Even the crows that did occasionally fly by kept their beaks shut, as if fearing they might be picked off by sharpshooters who set 10 Olympic and five world records. When the last bow was bent, Joliette finally heard noise—mostly hurrahs for gold medalists Darrell Pace of Reading, Ohio and Luann Ryon of Riverside, Calif.
Pace, 19, has had a remarkable succession of triumphs since he nearly lost his right thumb while working on a motorcycle in 1973. His victories include a world championship and three national titles. A skinny-looking 135-pounder, he nevertheless can control a bow that requires a 48-pound draw. That means his arrows fly downrange on a nearly flat trajectory at 205 feet per second, faster than for any other target shooter.
In contrast, Ryon, 23, was participating in her first international tournament. Her only major win before Joliette had come in the Olympic Trials, for which she had practiced mostly in her driveway. "The farthest I could shoot was 45 yards," she says, "and to do that I had to put the target in the garage."
Pace, who led from the 18th arrow on, broke all the Olympic marks established by John Williams of the U.S. in 1972, when archery was reinstated after a 52-year Olympic absence. He set records for every distance (90-70-50-30 meters) and surpassed Williams' Olympic record by 43 points with a 2,571 total.
August 8, 1976
Pace's confidence has occasionally been interpreted as conceit; with his gold medal dangling from his neck, he remarked, "I never said I was the greatest. If I win a tournament, I'm the greatest for that one only. The next tournament I enter, I won't go as Olympic champion, I'll go as Darrell Pace."
Ryon has confidence, too, thanks in part to Williams; the '72 Olympian is her coach. When he began working with her, though, he was not impressed. "Her arrows were almost turning somersaults," he says. Under Williams' guidance, Ryon's arrows straightened out, but at the start of Olympic competition her nerves were jangled and she was seventh at the end of the first day. Then she settled down, concentrating on Williams' orders to make quicker releases, and shot a world-record 2,499 points.