When Luann Ryon opted to choose the bow and arrow rather than racket and ball to pursue her Olympic dream, it was to prove tennis’ loss and archery’s gain.
The California-born archer’s career on the international stage was a fleeting one, but with her appearance at Montreal 1976 she added a spectacular chapter to the story of the Olympic Games.
She had only signed up to do archery at school after her preferred option of tennis was over-subscribed. However, once she started to find her feet in the sport she became an unstoppable force.
In 1973, she went on to be crowned national collegiate team champion at the age of just 20, and the following year took the individual title.
She had never appeared on the international stage by the time the Olympic Games of Montreal came around, and she was certainly not considered one of the favourites ahead of the competition.
Indeed her team mate Linda Myers had three years earlier been crowned world champion in Grenoble (FRA) and had been expected to lead the US charge for gold. But from the outset Ryon displayed an iron nerve, aim and resolve.
After the opening round at the Olympic Archery Field at Joliette she was a point clear of Germany’s Maria Urban, and then in the second round she put in such a supreme performance, recording an an Olympic record of 1,282 to give her an overall total of 2,499, which was enough to secure gold ahead of the Soviet pair of Valentyna Kovpan and Zebiniso Rustamova, who took silver and bronze respectively.
The following year Ryon won the team and individual world titles in Canberra (AUS), but never returned to the Olympic arena.
She also won five Californian state titles and remains the last American to win Olympic gold in an event now dominated by the women of the Republic of Korea.