Bowstring Virtuoso

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It is hard to see quite how archery reflects the Olympic motto of "Faster, higher, stronger." Their arrows fly at up to 73 m/sec., but archers make a point of barely moving. There are no heights involved, and while they need strength to hold their high-tech bows steady, that alone won't win them any prizes.

Excellence in archery demands other qualities-accuracy, stamina and the focus needed to aim, ignoring cheering crowds and pesky wind gusts, at a target 70 m away. Archery has never matched the global popularity of Olympic favorites like swimming or track, but last week the men's tournament produced one of the Games' great local victories so far, when South Australian Simon Fairweather clinched gold from American Victor Wunderle.

Fairweather had tasted success before, becoming world target champion in 1991. But the rest of the '90s were a drought for him. Despite being part of the winning Australian team at last year's world indoor championships, Fairweather was unable to repeat that form in individual competition-until last week, when he stormed the men's contest. He beat rivals from Cuba, France, Russia and the Netherlands on his way to the Sept. 20 final, which he won by 113 points to 106, scoring six bullseyes from his 12 arrows. With that victory, achieved with reflector sunglasses and a steely gaze, Fairweather took Australia's first ever archery medal, in front of a wildly excited crowd: "Every time the crowd cheered, it was like a cold chill," the 30-year-old said. "It was amazing."

The hometown roars helped, but Fairweather credits his dazzling performance largely to coach Kisik Lee. Coach of both the men's and women's teams since 1997, Lee was poached by Australia from South Korea, where he had taken that nation's phenomenal archers to gold at four Olympics. Lee brought with him a revolution. Before his arrival, few of Australia's èlite archers had full-time coaching, says team manager Stuart Atkins: "We used to go to international tournaments and watch other teams, trying to work out what they did. Now we don't watch them-but Mr. Lee says they're watching us."

Instead of focusing solely on their aim, says Atkins, Australia's archers have a new mantra: "If you get the sequence right, the outcome will take care of itself." Australia will now be hoping Lee's magic rubs off on his other protègès. The sport's shooting star may not be around for long: after his historic win, Fairweather said he was thinking of retiring to design jewelry.