Jefferson’s Wilber cruises to Olympic gold, cements herself in Iowa lore


Sports Editor



 ***EDITOR’S NOTE: Doreen Wilber became Iowa’s first female to capture an Olympic gold medal, winning the 1972 archery competition in Munich, Germany. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named her one of its athletes of the century, an honor she shared with such other Iowans as Bob Feller, Dan Gable and Nile Kinnick. The longtime Jefferson resident passed away from Alzheimer’s on Oct. 19, 2008 at the age of 78. A statue outside of the Jefferson Community Center  was built in 2011, immortalizing the archer’s accomplishments. This story is re-created in the context of the 1972 Olympic Games. 


Representing an entire demographic of woman young and old, Iowa’s best hope for Olympic gold almost never was. 

Jefferson resident and archer, Doreen Wilber, 42, stumbled to a lack-luster first round score of 1,198 at the Munich Olympic Games, leaving her on the outside looking in. 

Halfway through the competition, the Jefferson High School graduate stood in fourth place and off the medal stand.  

What she did in the second and final round not only secured her a miraculous come-from-behind win and the gold medal – a first for any Iowa woman – but she accomplished the feat in world record-shattering fashion. 

Wilber’s blistering score of 1,226 was the highest total any woman had ever achieved in international competition – and it wasn’t even close. 

No woman, up to that point, had even cracked the 1,200 point plateau in competition. 

Her record-breaking second round performance allowed her to leap-frog the three athletes in front of her to capture the iconic gold medal, with relative comfort. 

The Olympic win has been building for nearly a decade – Wilber’s undefeated streak in national and local tournament action stretches all the way back to 1962. 

But worldwide success had alluded the veteran Wilber. She never tasted the ultimate in international competition until now, finishing second at the world championships in Pennsylvania and second in England. 

Most startling is the fact the Iowan has achieved this much success as a late bloomer – she didn’t even pick up a bow, let alone compete tournaments, until she was 27. 

Wilber has set the record books on fire as of late – she has broken 10 world records since 1968, perhaps aided by her dedication to authenticity – the local archer uses real feathers on her arrows. 

She’s a 1948 graduate of Jefferson High School and has kept her fame a family affair too, refusing to seek any type of professional coaching. 

Her only coach – her husband, Paul “Skeeter” Wilber. 

Doreen has become a bright spot for an otherwise dark Olympic Games. Wilber is not only a fierce competitor, but she is known for her kindness. She often brings extra arrows and strings to each contest incase her opponents run into trouble. 

The “Munich Massacre” has dominated Olympic headlines all over the world.  The Palestinian terrorist group, Black September broke into the Olympic Village on Sept. 5 and killed 11 Israeli athletes and five German police officers.

U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz has also provided a few moments of celebration, as he’s blazed through the pool en route to seven gold medals, an Olympic world record. 

Joining Wilber in her gold medal success, fellow Iowan Dan Gable won gold in wrestling without surrendering a single point over the entire tournament. 

The 1972 Summer Olympics began Aug. 26 and conclude Sept. 11. 

Wilber won’t let the bright lights change her, as she plans to return home once the games wrap up with her husband to their Jefferson residence. 





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