Afterward, when she could finally relax; after they'd draped the bronze medal over her shoulders and the Korean girl in the ceremonial silk gown had given her a bouquet of flowers - Denise Parker talked about how pressure-packed it had gotten at the finish; how it was hard to breathe, let alone shoot an arrow. How it was so pressurized that it was . . . well, it was unimaginable.
"I mean, you can't sit back here and even think how much pressure there was," she was saying. "It was enormous. It was incredible. Nobody was secure. Anything could happen. It just all came down to that last end."She breathed another sigh of relief. True enough, the United States women's archery team, of which Parker had been a member in good standing, had barely missed winning the silver medal at the Games of the 24th Olympiad - losing in a shootoff to Indonesia - but even truer enough, the U.S. had survived a Soviet scare to be able to fly home as honest-to-goodness Olympic medalists.
Archery competitions are a lot like golf tournaments. They take all day to play, and often come down to the final arrow. Saturday at the Olympics was like that.
Twelve teams had qualified for the medal-round competition that began Saturday morning at the Hwarang Archery Field. Four of those teams - from Korea, the United States, the Soviet Union and Indonesia - asserted themselves as the strongest teams. These four, along with teams from Sweden, Great Britain, France and West Germany, moved into the eight-team final round in the afternoon.
The U.S.' score of 988 had been second best in the morning. The Korean team, with Kim Soo-Nyung, Wang Hee-Kyung and Yun Young-Sook, the three medalists in individual competition, scored 1,000 points and, as expected, was using the homefield wind and turf to distance itself from the competition. The Soviets scored 978 and Indonesia 975.
All the morning scores were wiped clean when the afternoon competition began. It would be identical to the morning's _ each team shooting 27 arrows (nine per team member) at distances of, in order, 30 meters, 50 meters, 60 meters and 70 meters.
Indonesia started fast, and actually took over first place from the Koreans after the 30-meter shoot. The Koreans soon retook the lead, however, and the competition settled rather comfortably into Korea, Indonesia, the U.S. and Russia, in that order.
After a bad 50-meter round, the Russians slipped well back in fourth, 20 points behind the U.S. The halfway scores showed Korea on top at 498, followed by Indonesia at 496, the United States at 490 and Russia at 470.
After 60 meters, the Russians closed the gap, but only slightly. Korea still led, with 739 points, followed by Indonesia with 731, the U. S. with 724 and the Soviets with 711.
Now there were 27 arrows left to shoot, at 70 meters, nine per end, three per archer.
After the first end the positions stayed virtually the same: Korea 821, Indonesia 810, United States 803, Soviet Union 788.
Eighteen arrows to go.
"Now we're thinking bronze all the way," said Denise.
But the Russians - who were barely eliminated from medals in the individual competition - were coming.
The Soviets had made up 13 points on one end, which is the equivalent of, say, a 9-0 inning in baseball.
They were back in it. The scores going into the final end of the Olympics: Korea 901 (and uncatchable), Indonesia 879, the USA 873, the USSR 871.
This was precisely the nerve-wracking, do-or-die, moment Parker was talking about. An Olympic medal was on the line _ and the Russians, of all people, had all the momentum. Somehow, if you could, you had to forget all that and go out there and shoot bulls-eyes.
Denise, who shoots fast anyway, stood on the line, thanked the Korean skies that there wasn't much wind, and got her three shots out of the way in a hurry.
She scored a bulls-eye (10), a 9 and another 9.
Teammates Debra Ochs and Melanie Skillman added 51 points to Denise's 28 _ for a 79 total. Skillman had a momentary flinch and scored a six with one of her arrows. The three Americans quickly looked through their binoculars at the Soviets' target. It looked as good or better. In the stands, where Denise's dad, Earl, was looking through his telescope, he shook his head. "That six might have nailed us," he said.
The archers walked the looong 70 meters to the targets, where the judges scored their arrows.
The Russians had beaten the Americans by one point . . . on that end.
They'd scored 80. They'd lost overall by one point.
In the meantime, the Indonesians, not exactly loose, had backed up to the field, shooting a poor 73 end. They finished with 952 points, identical to the U.S. and one ahead of Russia's 951.
"We could have had a three-way shootoff really easily," said Denise. "Or we could have been out of it entirely."
Nerves were frayed for the shoot-off, another end of nine arrows. Skillman, who had gone further in the individual competition than either Parker or Ochs, took aim at the target _ and missed everything.
The American team, to this point, had shot 216 arrows during the day, and never come close to missing the bale. No one in the eight-team final had missed the bale.
But Skillman did _ when last seen, her arrow was heading north, in the direction of the DMZ _ and that, for all intents and purposes, was that. Denise shot a 10-9-8 on her three arrows, steady to the end, but missing the bale is like throwing a gutter ball in bowling. It's hard to make up. The U.S. scored 67 _ not quite enough to match Indonesia's 72, which, in itself, was no terrific end.
But as they walked back from pulling their arrows out for the last time of these Olympic Games, the Americans had only to look at the Russians to appreciate where they stood.
Moments later, after archers from all the nations entered were paraded around the archery grounds, the medals were presented. The capacity crowd cheered long and loud for the victorious Koreans as they received their gold medals. The Indonesians looked shaken and relieved as they received their silver medals.
When they announced the bronze medalists from the United States of America they got the names backwards. "Parker Denise" was awarded her medal.
She didn't care. She smiled anyway, and waved to the crowd. When you're 14 and have just won an Olympic medal, it's something to smile about. And when you've just shot two of the best pressure ends of your life to help win it, it's a story that will only get better with age.