In manner, Hardy
is reserved, quiet and impeccably polite, given over to "Yes, sir" and
"Thank you, ma'am." Archer Jack Hoffarth recalls one night several
years ago when he and another archer were out for a late stroll after the first
day of a tournament. "We were walking past a playground," he says,
"and we heard these noises. I asked who was there, and a voice came back,
'It's me, sir, Hardy Ward. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to do some
exercises.' I looked more closely and, sure enough, there was Hardy climbing
the monkey bars."
There has been no
parental pressure on Hardy to take up the arrow and the bow—no intense coaching
starting at age 3. Hardy did not get interested in archery until he was 5, when
his parents bought him a $6 bow for his birthday. For the next seven years
Hardy's shooting was restricted to the backyard, where he riddled milk cartons
filled with sand, and to the woods and fields, where he picked off jackrabbits
darting through the brush, as well as deer, squirrels, possum and birds.
have any idea how good he was," recalls his father, "so we all piled
into the car and took him to a tournament in Arkansas to find out. It was field
archery, where you shoot at targets simulating animals. He had never shot any
targets like this. We promised him a new bow if he shot 400 on the last round.
Hardy was only 12, and he hadn't done too well the first day, but one of the
older archers noticed that his arrows were all bent. He straightened them out,
and then Hardy went out and shot 518—a junior national field record—the first
time he ever tried the last course." Before long, Hardy was practicing
daily and traveling from one tournament to another. He won so many first-place
trophies that a corner of the house had to be set aside for them.
disaster. "I froze," he recalls. "I was 15 and I couldn't shoot
anymore. It got so bad that I decided to use a clicker on my bow. It was either
that or stop shooting." A clicker is a little metal arm through which the
arrow is drawn as the archer pulls back the string. It enables him to
concentrate on aiming. A good aim is wasted if the archer cannot always draw
the arrow back, the same distance on each shot. If his draw is merely
one-eighth of an inch longer than usual, he is apt to be several feet out of
the gold, or bull's-eye, at 90 meters. A clicker permits him to draw back
almost all the way, aim and then, when that last fraction of an inch of the
arrow tip slips through the metal arm and causes a clicking sound, he knows it
is time to fire.
the first to win a national title with a clicker," says Earl Hoyt, owner of
the Hoyt Archery Company, which makes the bows used by most of the world's
leading marksmen. "The clicker has been the single most important factor in
improved scores and in the retention of archers in the sport. You see, at some
time or other every archer runs into the problem of freezing. He just can't
shoot right, and the harder he tries, the worse he gets. Until Hardy
popularized the clicker, freezing was something like a terminal
Most archers now
use clickers, including some of the youngsters who are on the U.S. team. Three
of the four members are teen-agers: Ward, 16-year-old Steve Lieberman of
Reading, Pa. and 15-year-old John Williams of Cranesville, Pa. The fourth is
Ray Rogers, 32, of Muskogee, Okla., who in 1967 beat out Ward for the U.S.
title and won the world championship.
want this world championship," Ward says. "I would have won at 17 if
they hadn't made a rule change the day before the competition started. All of a
sudden they decided it was illegal to use peep sights with calibrations or
magnification. It was like learning how to shoot all over again. But Al Muller
fixed them. He showed up with calibrations marked on the lens of one of his
eyeglasses. The officials noticed, and they got all excited. It was all in fun.
Al is blind in one eye, and all he had done was to put some meaningless
markings on his glasses and he had people hopping up and down all over.
first day I was in 27th place. The blisters on my right hand broke—I had
practiced too much the day before trying to get used to shooting without my
regular sight—and each time I shot, the blood flew. By the time I was done
shooting, my white shirt (archers must wear all-white uniforms during
international matches) was covered with red. My fingers screamed, but I shot a
world championship one-round-record 1,179 and moved up to second place with two
arrows to go. Then somebody behind me clicked a motorized camera just as I was
getting ready for my next-to-the-last shot. I thought it was my clicker, and I
let go too soon and got only a seven. I got a 10 on my last shot, but I lost
second place by one point. I was really disappointed that I didn't win at 17.
If I win at 19, well, I just feel that somebody younger will come along and win
some day. Why not? Kids are doing it in all other sports."
youngster is Johnny Williams, a high schooler who finished first at the U.S.
tryouts in St. Louis and also set world records, shooting 1,242 in a single day
and scoring 320 at 70 meters. As spectacular as Williams was, it was Hardy Ward
who caused even more of a sensation at the trials in June. To be able to
compete for the U.S. in the forthcoming world championship, Hardy had to finish
at least fourth. As it turned out, he barely earned the fourth spot on the
team, but he overcame so many misfortunes in doing so that his feats have
become archery legend.
His woes began a
week before the try-outs when he was playing golf on a pitch-and-putt course
with his girl. Hardy's father explains what happened this way: "She hit the
ball over a fence and Hardy tried to show off for her by jumping over the
fence, and when he did he sprung his ankle." What he "sprung" were
ligaments in his right foot, and the injury hobbled him badly.