It was the summer of '84, the Los Angeles Olympics were blooming in all their resplendent glory, and Janet Dykman was falling in love again.
There, at the archery venue, stood Karl Rabbe, displaying the latest in archery equipment, earnestly explaining the advances that had brought the sport from Sherwood Forest to the space age.
And there, watching him, stood Dykman, eyes shining, heart pounding.
Not because of Rabbe, although she did think he was a very nice man. It was the equipment he was touting that had set her aglow. It was a bow she wanted, not a beau.
"I had shot in high school and then drifted away," she said. "I stood there looking at all the new stuff.
"When I had been shooting before, I had a one-piece wood bow. There in '84, Karl was showing three-piece bows of the latest material. That was the rekindling. I just knew I wanted to shoot again."
So shortly after the Games, Dykman, of El Monte, hied herself off to an archery shop in Monrovia, reequipped herself and set about becoming a recreational archer.
"I thought once a week would be a good diversion from work," she said. "You know, kind of like bowling."
"It took a few months, but once I picked it up again I knew right away," she said. "It just felt so good. I kept asking myself why, in the last 12 years, I hadn't picked it up again."
And there is no way to scratch that kind of itch shooting once a week.
"It took a year to get real comfortable again, then I just started competing more and more," she said. "I'd been out of action for 12 years and I didn't have a whole lot of time to waste."
By 1990, she had shot her way onto the national team, and on July 28 at the Stone Mountain archery venue, Dykman, at 46, will shoot in her first Olympic competition.
She likes her chances too.
"I feel confident," she said. "If I shoot as well as I did last year at the Pan Am Games, I should be OK."
If she shoots as well as she did in those Pan Am Games, she should be considerably better than OK. She won the individual gold medal and was part of the gold-medal winning team in that competition at Mar del Plata, Argentina.
"I just want to shoot each shot and make it my best," she said. "If I shoot my best and it adds up, fine. If I shoot the best I can and somebody beats me, I still will have pretty happy feelings.
"In the ranking round, I want to place as high as I can to get into the right set of matches. After that, it's match play and I'll have to beat my opponents."
Only the nonmechanical recurve bow--as opposed to the compound bow with its pulleys at either end--is used in Olympic archery. In the ranking round, archers shoot 72 arrows in groups of six from 70 meters, each of the 64 competitors in the men's and women's events advancing to the elimination round, match shooting. Each archer then shoots 18 arrows, in groups of three, from 70 meters in the elimination round, the winners moving on to other matches, the losers packing their gear.
The eight top match winners shoot in the finals round--through quarterfinals, semifinals, the bronze-medal match and the gold-medal match--each shooting 12 arrows in groups of three.
Whatever happens to Dykman here, though, she intends to continue in the sport.
"I didn't want to make this my final goal," she said. "I don't need any extra pressure. Besides, this is not something I could just give up. I can't imagine not doing it. This is my life."
And in making archery her life, Dykman has had to make some financial sacrifices, her sport yielding little in the way of monetary reward.
"I get some Olympic grants [from the U.S. Olympic Committee] and I have some sponsors, but you still have to do a lot on your own," she said. "The last two years, I've had such a busy tournament schedule that it would have been impossible to have a job. I would have been gone from work more than I would have been there.
"But I've always had an interest in pottery and ceramics and I've created my own DIOMO Enterprises. DIOMO stands for Doing It On My Own. I make things and sell them. I also learned silversmithing and I make jewelry, rings and bracelets, and take them to tournaments and sell them. I'm to the point now that people are asking me to make things for them, custom designs. It's something I can do at home when I'm not practicing."
And whatever happened to Karl Rabbe, the man whose archery spiel so intrigued her during the '84 Games?
"Oh, Karl is a wonderful man," Dykman said. "He's a retired [California] Highway Patrolman from Diamond Bar. He's the developer of the state archery organization and he's always doing something to promote the sport. He's always very supportive. He'll be here too, just as he was in L.A."
Turning some other would-be archer's head, no doubt.
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* Athlete: Janet Dykman.
* Discipline: Archery.
* Hometown: El Monte.
* Competitive history: First Olympics; alternate in 1992. Member of U.S. team in World Championships (targets) in 1989 (second), '91 (third), '93; World Championships (field) in '90 (fifth), '92 and '94. Member of U.S. team in Pan American Games '95 (individual and team gold, 50- and 30-meter silvers).
* Record: Pan Am Games, 319 at 50 meters.
* Personal: Makes jewelry, ceramics and pottery. Understands and speaks Dutch, although she understands it better than she speaks it. Good-luck charm is a stuffed Snoopy she bought as a spectator at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She carries Snoopy in her equipment bag and has been known to get credentials for him at international events.