The underlying question of these Olympic trials was never whether Denise Parker would be one of those few chosen. That was accepted.
From the time the first arrows started flying last Sunday, people here wondered, and many asked openly, just how good is this Denise Parker? She could shoot, that much they'd seen or heard, but was she, at the young age of 14, really Olympic material? Could she stand there with her foot on the firing line in Seoul with the world's best archers and be one of them? As one archery official put it, "People wanted to know. We've had our flash-in-the-pans before. They came in, burned up the targets, and then were never heard from again. They had their moment, and when they realized where they were they sunk."Now we know. Denise is one of the very best . . . and she's here to stay."
The sandy-haired miss from South Jordan, Utah, with braces on her teeth, an easy smile, a little-girl walk and school-girl shyness, showed she also has a master's touch, a champion's confidence, a winner's determination and shooting skills far beyond her years.
Going against archers two and three times her age, with five and six times her experience, she beat them all - decisively. Showing no doubts of her skills or any signs of the pressure - which was considerable considering that making the team was her No. 1 goal - she outshot all the
best women archers, and at times the best men archers, in the United States.
She will go to the Seoul Olympics in September as America's top archery hopeful.
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By all the laws of archery, Denise Parker should be a mentionable when talks about the 1992, or 1996 Games begin, but certainly not now as a medal contender in '88. The scales don't balance.
For one thing, she's too young. By archery rules she's still a junior member and is, in fact, a member of the Junior Elite U.S. Team. She is now the youngest member ever on an Olympic archery team.
She lacks experience, too. It was only one year ago that she first shot in adult competition, and only four years ago that she first pulled back on a bow string. Archery skills develop over time. Many of the Olympic competitors began shooting before Parker was born.
And then there's the equipment. Because of her age and developing muscles, she must draw a lighter bow than the other archers, about five points lighter. This means there's more arch on her arrows, leaving more room for error and the arrows more vulnerable to wind conditions.
Still, she set records as a junior archer, set more in adult competition (he became the first U.S. woman to score over 1,300 points in a FITA shoot last month, and this week became the first woman ever to score over 330 in a Grand FITA), won two gold medals in the Pan American Games last year, and then clearly won the National Archery Association Olympic Trials competition on the campus of Miami University here this week.
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Parker opened the Olympic Trials understandably a little tentative. For over a year now her top goal has been to make the team. Each morning, to remind herself, she writes it down.
She ended the first day of elimination one point behind Debra Ochs of Howell, Mich. Her shoulder, suffering from tendinitis, also bothered her on Sunday.
On Monday, noticeably more relaxed and with her shoulder feeling better, she took the lead on the very first end (rrows shot in groups of three) and ran away from the field, eventually beating Ochs by 39 and third place Melanie Stillman, Laureldale, Mich., by 69.
Leading a field of 24 into the women's finals, shot in a Grand FITA format, Parker was second in the morning event on Tuesday and first in the afternoon shoot, scoring a record 331 points.
Wednesday morning she clinched a spot on the Olympic team by placing first, then with absolutely no pressure on her Parker bounced around from first, to 14th, to fourth, to 10th, to 11th, to first, before finally settling into second place in the afternoon shoot.
Afterward she explained her shooting when she said, "I prefer the pressure. I shoot better under pressure. I shot better at the end because I wanted to win."
And she did. She finished with seven penalty points. She was joined on the Olympic team by Ochs with 12 points and Stillman with 31.
Over on the men's side of the field, Ed Eliason of Stansbury Park, at age 50 trying to make it on his third Olympic team (e was on the 1962 and 1980 teams), was putting up a good fight for the third spot on the men's team. When the last end was shot, however, he was two points short.