Hardy Ward shoots
with some of the crookedest fingers and straightest arrows in the world of
archery. At the age of 19 he already has won two U.S. national championships
and next week he will try to add a world title to the collection. But whether
or no he succeeds, at the end of the tournament Hardy Ward's fingers will
resemble those of a man who has spent a lifetime clutching at needle-sharp
The index, middle
and ring fingers of his right hand will be blistered and swollen like overdone
hot dogs from the strain of pulling a bowstring that requires 46 pounds of
pressure. Since he often holds the bowstring for an agonizing 20 or 30 seconds
before release, after shooting 1,000 arrows in a week he cannot straighten out
his fingers for hours.
In attempts to
alleviate the pain and swelling, Ward has soaked his fingers in water, painted
them with iodine and once, in desperation, even took a pseudo doctor's advice
and slept with his right hand wrapped in bacon. None of the cures has worked,
so Ward—trying to forget—sits back, cracks his knuckles and waits for the 1972
Olympics, when he hopes to win the first gold medal in archery since the sport
was dropped from competition in 1922.
If Ward does not
attain his goal it could be because he has been too successful for his own
good. He has been a winner so often while yet so young that other youngsters
have been encouraged to crowd into this neglected sport. The competition has
there were almost no tournaments, and there were no more than 1,000 target
archers," says Clayton Shenk, executive secretary of the National Archery
Association. "Now there are 1,000,000 archers in this country." Hardy's
success convinced teen-agers that they could skip intermediate competition for
boys 15 through 18 and jump right in against adults. A boy named Dave Keaggy
Jr. won the adult title in 1963 when he was 16, but a lot of people thought it
was a fluke. Then Hardy came along a few years later and he won at 16, and
suddenly kids everywhere were dropping their baseball bats and buying bows.
next week's world championship in Valley Forge, Pa., Ward begins pursuit of one
of the most unique doubles in archery history. First, he will attempt to become
the youngest ever to win that title, shooting against some 225 archers from
more than 30 nations. Even the Russians are coming. The second of Ward's
objectives will be to try to become the first modern bowman to win a third
American adult title. His chance for that will come a week after the world meet
and will also be in Valley Forge.
After winning his
first championship at 16, Ward finished second at 17 and then returned to his
hometown, Mt. Pleasant, Texas, last year once again as the U.S. champion. Mt.
Pleasant is a yawn in the middle of the road between Dallas and Texarkana. It
is a town of 14,400 that lazes in the northeast corner of the state on the
fringe of the piney-woods region. Little things mean a lot in Mt. Pleasant,
primarily because there are no big things to fret about. It is the kind of town
where folks lament that the local restaurant's turkey dinner now comes from a
round can and not straight from the barnyard.
Don Ward Sr. is a
Boy Scout executive and doubles as the family seamstress. His wife Martha works
a night shift at a munitions factory. Sonja Diane, 18, and Butch, 17, are fine
tennis players, and 9-year-old Debbie wants to play on the high school football
team. Donnie, 13, is the Dr. Dolittle of Mt. Pleasant, befriending birds, dogs,
cats, squirrels and lizards wherever he goes.
Hardy is a premed
student at Kilgore Junior College and he has a tough scholastic schedule, but
he still manages to get in four hours of archery practice a day. His only other
major pastime is a normal one. "You might say," his father says,
"that when he gave up Boy Scouting he took up girl scouting."
Hardy Ward is a
handsome young man who would "like for people to think he's a playboy,"
says his father. "But he's not." Nonplayboy Hardy has been known to
fall sound asleep while out on a date.