The poster girl for archery’s return to the Olympic Games in 1972
Archery returned to the programme of the Olympics after a 52-year hiatus when the Games were held in Munich in 1972.
Ninety-five archers from 27 nations competed in the four-day event held in the city’s English Gardens, with the USA’s Doreen Wilber and John Williams ultimately being crowned the first Olympic Champions of the new era.
The sport’s return was advertised with a bespoke poster for the Games. It featured neither of the eventual winners, nor West Germany’s two entrants – Ursula Buschking and Carla Nolpa.
Instead, local archer Irene Lehner was the face of the sport.
A relatively new member of Munich Archery Club, Lehner had already made the national team and was training for an international match against what was then Czechoslovakia.
Sports Illustrated magazine sent photographer Max Muhlberger to capture the squad on the practice range for a feature promoting the event.
“The picture was taken after training,” recalls Lehner. “They told us to stand like this and then they took this photo and a few others.”
Irene is seen in focus, while the arm and bow in the foreground belongs to 1972 Olympian Siegfried Ortmann.
The image appeared in Sports Illustrated, then in the newspaper Bild – including to illustrate a report on a field archery tournament – and then in a textbook on archery published in 1969.
Somehow, it ended up with the design chief for Munich 1972, Otl Aicher.
He appeared in person at the sports shop in Waldtrudering in which Lehner worked as a salesperson – and built an archery department – to show her a draft of his poster for the Olympics.
“He asked me if I agreed with it,” says Irene. She did and the poster was released. Lehner was subsequently accused by her teammates of violating the amateur rules that then surrounded sport.
“Neither then, nor later, did I ever get a penny, not even a poster,” she says. Although her sister-in-law who worked at the Franzis-Druck printers in Munich did find her a copy.
Lehner didn’t make it to the Olympics. Although she was a top archer in Germany in the years preceding, she stepped away from the sport after her son had an accident in 1970. She later founded Hofolding Archery Club in the south of Munich in 1972 and sat on its board for 40 years.
Now in her eighties, and 50 years since her image was used to promote archery’s historic return to the Olympic Games, Irene can still be found shooting her bow.
Quotes, photos and research courtesy Stefan Grus and based on an article previously published on DSB.de.