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No arms, but archer is on target


April 28, 2018 by admin

Never-say-die attitude … Matt Stutzman on his way to silver at the Paralympic Games on Monday.2012 Paralymics: Full medal tally

 Full coverage: Our Paralympics site

OF all the things that Matt Stutzman has been mistaken for while in the athletes village at the London Paralympic Games, there was one suggestion that even bewildered him.

“I actually had one person who thought I was a basketball player,” said a laughing Stutzman, who was born without arms. For the record, most believe that he was a swimmer.

But maybe the basketball suggestion is not that fanciful because what Stutzman achieved on Monday seems just as unlikely. The 29-year-old American’s chosen sport is archery, on Monday winning a silver medal in the individual compound [open] in a tense final against Jere Forsberg that went down to the final shot.

“When I tell them I’m an archer they’re like ‘how do you do that?’,” he said. “I use my feet so it’s kind of hard for them to believe that.”

He uses his right foot to pick up and hold the bow and with the aid of a hook on his shoulder draws it back and uses his mouth to the arrow. The accuracy is remarkable, with the three times that he was off target through the semi-final and the final attracting shocked groans from the crowd.

His coach Randi Smith said what seems remarkable to many, came as second nature to Stutzman, whose has to overcome a number of hurdles to compete, including maintaining his balance and having enough strength in his legs, neck and upper body to operate the bow.

“I couldn’t do it but he’s grown up doing everything with his feet so it’s a natural thing for him,” Smith said. “Balance is a big one, strength, being strong enough in the legs and the neck and the torso.

Stutzman was satisfied with his result, losing 6-4 to Forsberg. The final would have gone down to a one-arrow shoot-off had Forsberg scored anything less than a 10 on his final shot, but the Finn held his nerve.

“I was at peace,” Stutzman said. “I shot my shots and it felt good and he was shotting amazing too and whatever happened I was OK with it. He made a great shot but silver I’m happy with that.

“This was the calmest match. It’s hard to explain. I felt at peace with what I was doing out there and I knew win or lose I was going to come out a champion. I loved that match.”

Stutzman has become one of the faces of the Games and he said he hoped he could inspire “just one person” with his never-say-never attitude.

“I want people to see what I’m doing and accomplishing and say if a guy with no arms can live his life like that and enjoy everything that’s going on then ‘my thumb doesn’t hurt any more or maybe my back doesn’t hurt’, you don’t have to worry about the little things in life like that.

“I wanted to inspire at least one person and show them that anything is possible.”

Now at the end of his first Paralympics, Stutzman is looking forward to some time away from competition.

“It’s going to be awesome – sleep in a little bit, have some time with family which is amazing. I’m going to try and catch a bunch of games now that my competition’s over. I’m going to watch some running, I’ve got some friends here too. I want to spend a couple of days without adrenalin.”

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