Paralympian archer on a golden mission for Tokyo 2020

Paralympian Matt Stutzman competing at the compound open event at London 2012

American archer Matt Stutzman was born without arms, but he hasn't let it stop him from achieving his dreams.

Widely known as the “Armless Archer”, journey to becoming a Paralympian is a story of never giving up and leaving it all out there.

In 2009, the then stay-at-home dad of two boys was unemployed and depressed as he was unable to provide for his family, with his wife Amber working full-time and paying the bills. But while watching television one day Stutzman saw a man take a bow and teach himself how to hunt.

“I said, 'why can't I do that?',” he said.

“So, I got a bow and I started training and I decided that I wanted to become the best archer in the world.”

Initially, Stutzman turned to archery to help feed his family through hunting and not competing, but little did he know where he would be in just three years later.

The 36-year-old holds the bow in his right foot before extending his leg and braces the end of the arrow on his shoulder. He previously triggered the shot with his jaw but now uses his back muscles to do so.

One day a friend told Stutzman that he should enter a tournament as he had done well hunting so in early 2010, he entered his first tournament.

After a while he was able to earn modest endorsements and money through competing, but he wanted to become the best archer in the world, not just a sideshow, so he began to practice up to eight hours a day.

Eventually Stutzman found himself winning a para archery qualifying tournament and earning a spot on the US team for the London 2012 Paralympic Games as the number one seed.

“All my life I knew I wanted to do something amazing in sports, I just didn't know what that was so when 2011 happened, I soon realised that I could be a Paralympian I didn't even have words to describe how I felt,” he said.

At London, the relatively unknown Stutzman and having only competed at just one international competition prior, took home a silver medal in the men's individual compound open event.

While he wasn't able to medal in Rio 2016, finishing his campaign in the Round of 16, it has made him more determined than ever less than a year out from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games to finally clinch that elusive gold medal.

“I've got pretty high expectations because in London, I got a silver and in Rio de Janeiro I did not podium at all so this Games for me is the games that I need to put all of it into it so I can win a gold medal,” he said.

With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games shaping up to have one of the biggest since London 2012, Stutzman reiterated why it is important to get out to venues to support Para athletes next year.

“It's important to support the Paralympics because you're legitimately changing people's lives,” he said.

“There are athletes who have a physical impairment, who work just as hard as everyone else to get where they're at and when you can support them, it really helps them get to their goals, and makes them feel like they're accomplished and it makes them a better person.”

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place between 25 August and 6 September next year.

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