Naked ambition finally earns reward for Williamson

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The Independent Online

For eight years Alison Williamson has been all too aware that the only time she imposed herself on the national consciousness was when she posed nude for a glossy magazine. As of yesterday, she will be remembered as an Olympic bronze medallist.

For eight years Alison Williamson has been all too aware that the only time she imposed herself on the national consciousness was when she posed nude for a glossy magazine. As of yesterday, she will be remembered as an Olympic bronze medallist.

A lifetime of devotion to her sport finally brought its reward as the 32-year-old primary school teacher from Church Stretton in Shropshire finished third in the individual archery competition.

The Briton held her nerve in a tense bronze medal match to win on the last of the 12 arrows. Williamson and Shun Chi Yuan, of Chinese Taipei, were tied at 97-97 with one arrow left, but the Briton's score of eight (the maximum, for hitting the centre of the target, is 10) gave her victory by one point. Park Sung-Hyun beat another South Korean, Lee Sung-Jin, in the gold medal match.

Williamson, who has competed internationally for 18 years and represented Britain at four Olympics, is a passionate defender of her sport and one of its most conscientious ambassadors. The famous photograph - a discreet and tasteful back view with her bow strategically placed - was undertaken in the hope (successful, as it turned out) of getting publicity for archery before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

It was four years later in Sydney that Williamson suffered one of her greatest disappointments after having the misfortune to come up against the 17-year-old South Korean, Yun Mi-Jin, in the last 16.

Yun, who is now the world champion and surprisingly went out in yesterday's quarter-finals, broke the Olympic record by five points in amassing a score of 173 to Williamson's 164 and went on to win the title.

Williamson, who had been one of the favourites, made for the nearest toilet and locked herself inside. She had no reason to hide yesterday. Clinching her medal, she said: "It was a bit of a nerve-wracker. I didn't want to look. Mentally it's tough."

She added: "I'm really happy. It's a fantastic journey I've been on and this is the end result."

The archery competitions are being held in the marble Panathinaiko Stadium, the venue for the 1896 Games, and clearly inspired Williamson. "Every time I walked down that tunnel I thought it was amazing," she said.

Simon Clegg, the British Olympic Association's chef de mission, was glowing in his praise of Williamson. "It's been a long time and she's worked hard over the years," he said.

Williamson, who lost in the semi-finals to the eventual winner by 110-100, won a controversial quarter-final against the leading Chinese archer, He Ying. Ying shot out of turn with her ninth arrow and therefore had her highest scoring shot, a 10, deducted. She then failed to take her 10th shot in time in the 12-arrow shoot-out while her coach argued with officials.

Williamson went on to win 109-89, while Ying, the individual silver medallist in Atlanta in 1996, left the stadium in tears. The other Briton, Naomi Folkard, had gone out in the previous round.

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