Nine years after winning the world championship in Poland, Simon Fairweather became Australia’s first and only Olympic archery champion when he won gold at the Sydney Games. Between those two career highlights was sandwiched a great deal of frustration and comparative obscurity. Fairweather was 22 and already an Olympian when he won that 1991 world title, and at the time the future looked bright indeed - so bright that a sponsor signed him for a two-year contract. He tried hard afterwards to regain the technique and mind-set that had accompanied that first great win, but his results were so disappointing that he was quickly dropped by the sponsor.
His participation in the Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics yielded no grounds for optimism; his individual finishing places at those Games were 16th, 25th and 52nd respectively. After Atlanta, he seriously considered giving the sport away… until he met the former South Korean national coach Ki Sik Lee, who had been poached in 1997 by the Australian Sports Commission for the Institute of Sport. The Korean persuaded him to give the sport another try, then went to work on his technique and mental approach.
In Sydney Fairweather finally delivered, reeling off bullseye after bullseye from 70 metres in gusty winds at archery’s Homebush Bay venue. In the first round he equalled the Olympic record for an 18-arrow match, and in the 12-arrow gold-medal shoot-out he, performed nervelessly to score 29 out of a possible 30 for his opening three arrows, going on to easily beat American Vic Wunderle. Fairweather became a five-time Olympian in Athens in 2004, but was eliminated in the first round.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian