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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Consistency Shoots Huish Straight to Gold Medal

Archery: Simi Valley man scores 112 out of a possible 120 points in becoming champion.

August 02, 1996|MIKE HISERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Don't try to tell Justin Huish that consistency doesn't pay. He has an Olympic gold medal proving it does.

Huish, 21, from Simi Valley, became an Olympic champion Thursday by scoring 112 out of a possible 120 in three consecutive rounds at the Stone Mountain Park archery complex.

In the gold medal match, his score was five shots better than Magnus Petersson of Sweden.

Huish is the fifth American male to win in the last six Olympics that the United States has attended.

His first impression, once the gold medal was draped around his neck: "Gosh, this thing is heavy."

His second: that he had been there before.

"I think it was all the mental preparation I put myself through," Huish said. "In my mind, I'd put that medal over my head time after time."

Kyo-Moon Oh of Korea, who entered the competition ranked second in the world, twice established the Olympic record for highest round of 12. However, his rounds of 114 and 115 didn't get him into the final and he settled for a bronze medal.

Steady beat spectacular, much to the delight of a partisan, standing-room-only crowd of more than 5,400.

Ten points is the most an archer can score on a single arrow. Huish struck for no worse than an eight, and he had only three of those.

Only once was he in trouble. In a quarterfinal against Michele Frangilli, Huish needed a nine on his final arrow to advance. His eight gave life to Frangilli, an archer many experts considered a shoo-in for a medal.

But as quickly as Huish opened a window of opportunity, he slammed it shut with consecutive 10s to win the tiebreaker.

The eight, Huish said, actually was too good of a shot.

"Whenever I'm tense I shoot to the right, and that's what was happening," he said. "The pressure was getting to me a little bit, so I leaned to the left with my sight, figuring it would swivel back into the 10."

Instead, it landed right where he was aiming.

From that point on, Huish aimed straight and usually shot that way. In his semifinal, Huish routed Paul Vermeiren of Belgium by nine points.

Playing to the crowd at every opportunity, Huish looked relaxed and at home on a course where, in 19 matches over the course of two competitions during the last year, he has been defeated only once.

Those looks, he confessed, were deceiving.

"I didn't get over my nerves," he said. "I was in a fog at the end. I was just trying to see gold in my sight and let it rip."

Encouraging the crowd was Huish's way of distracting himself.

"I had too much energy," he said. "I had to get it out, somehow. That was a way for me to release it."

Among his fans were almost three dozen family members, including his mother, Ona, who was too nervous to watch at times. Huish's father, Bernie, a bow hunter, pointed a video camera, trying to catch every golden moment on tape.

Before the final, Huish came up into the stands for a group hug. A short time later, he had a good look at them from the victory stand.

Everyone was crying. He just waved and smiled.

A sport of straight arrows had a new champion, one who wears his long hair pulled back into a ponytail and covers it with a baseball cap he only wears turned backward.

"He's from California, what do you expect?" cracked Rick McKinney, who along with Darrell Pace dominated American men's archery in the 1970s and '80s.

"Justin, to me, is to archery what Andre Agassi is to tennis. He's his own person. His individuality is very important to him."

And to think, not too long ago, Huish was practicing over his own make-shift course outside his family's home, shooting from across the street and through the garage into the backyard.

Now that he has conquered archery, a cousin is trying to get him serious about playing the guitar.

Might he cash in on his celebrity? Huish doubts it.

"I'm not a very good guitarist," he said. "I'm a lot better with a bow."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

MEDALISTS / Archery

Men

Gold: Justin Huish, United States

Silver: Magnus Petersson, Sweden

Bronze: Oh Kyo-moon, South Korea

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