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Sunday, September 17, 2000

Lone Canadian archer living lifelong dream

 Mention bows and some people think of gift boxes. Bring up arrows and they'll picture rubber-tipped toys or plastic sticks used to stir cocktails.

 Not Bob Rusnov of Richmond Hill. He sees travel and adventure.

 Rusnov, Canada's one-member team in Olympic archery, shot himself into the next round Saturday with a sharp second half of the seeding competition. He'll go head-to-head against Swedish bowman Niklas Eriksson Monday.

 Rusnov knows he's not in a prime-time sport. He's surrounded by internationally known names every day at the athletes' village, some of whom with the wherewithal to buy the village and maybe the rights to Waltzing Matilda, too.

 He doesn't much care. He's living another instalment of his dream.

 After all, here's a guy who said he was going to be an Olympic archer when he was 13. He felt he was part of a flock who wanted to fly solo.

 "I played triple-A hockey and I was getting sick of it," the 26-year-old said after battling high left-to-right crosswinds in the 64-man competition. "When I was in Grade 9, a p.a. announcement came on asking for anyone interested in archery. Soon as I heard you could get to the Olympics with it, I was sold.

 "There's a couple of reasons. You get to be involved in an individual sport, which I really needed at that time, and you travel on someone else's ticket."

 His parents dismissed his rash announcement as merely a childish whim. Nine years later, Rusnov was on the Atlanta Olympics archery range.

 Others may make allusions to Robin Hood, William Tell or even Cupid, but Rusnov has a love for his sport that deflates wisecracks.

 Rusnov's 622 total Saturday was the upper median in the wind-buffeted shootout. He assessed it as only average and pledged he'll step it up.

 This Olympics is it for the voluble bowman. He'll complete his electrical engineering studies at Ryerson and pluck the bowstring only as a hobby.

 Only one thing would make his current experience more complete, he said. He wishes the man he knocked off to get here, good pal David Dalziel, had also qualified.

 Rusnov hangs around with the beach volleyballers and women softball players at the village and says they all understand a sport others may not.

 "They're aware of the intricacies of a sport at this level," he said. "To me, everything changes when I get into the head-to-head stuff. My heart rate rises to between 120 (beats a minute) and 130. I really get pumped."

 There was a time when he got too pumped. "I was obsessed with archery but I've found if I have fun, I do better. You have to love doing it and with less pressure to do well, you actually do better."

 Today, he'll be out on the range making adjustments. He wasn't unhappy with the seeding shoot but he wasn't completely satisfied, despite wind conditions that made it a bit of a crapshoot.

 "They (the arrows) were fish-tailing so some adjustments are required," he said. "It won't be as much a factor inside the stadium."