Armed with arrows, right on target

Armless US archer Matt Stutzman arriving for the individual compound qualifying. He won a silver in London but lost in the round of 16 this time.
Armless US archer Matt Stutzman arriving for the individual compound qualifying. He won a silver in London but lost in the round of 16 this time.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIO DE JANEIRO • A man with no arms walks into a shop selling bows and arrows - yes, US Paralympic archer Matt Stutzman agrees this could sound like the start of a joke.

But it really happened and today, incredibly, he is not only a top Paralympic archer competing in Rio de Janeiro, but also a Guinness World Records holder.

Feeling "depressed" by his inability to contribute to the family or work while his wife Amber scrambled with two jobs, Stutzman decided in 2009 on an unlikely solution.

"When you're desperate to help provide for your family, you'll be willing to try whatever," the 33-year-old said after competing on Wednesday. "I just saw a bow and (said) that's what I want to do, I'm going to go out, going to harvest an animal, put it in the freezer and have food."

First Stutzman, who was born without arms, had to go to a store.

"When I first walked in and said 'I'd like to buy a bow,' they were looking at me like weird," he said, and asking 'How are you going to shoot it?' (I said) 'I don't know - just give it to me'."

Stutzman searched online for tips on how to fire arrows with no hands or arms and found nothing.

But he had well-developed foot skills, being able to shave, write and even drive with his feet.

"I think I can do everything. Sometimes it can take me longer. I can tie my shoe(laces) - it might take me two minutes instead of 30 seconds, but I can still do it," he said.

Actually, there is one thing where the father of three comes up short, he jokes. "My wife is up there and I usually tell her I can't change dirty diapers."

To shoot, he sits, holding the bow out with his right foot, then extends his leg to bend it.

The string holding the arrow is fastened to his body until he activates a release and the arrow flies.

He has come a long way.

"At my first tournament, I asked the lady where the other armless archers were and she said, 'What do you mean?' I didn't know I was the only one that did it," he recalls.

Stutzman won silver at the London Paralympics and last year was certified by the Guinness World Records for the longest accurate shot at 283.47m.

"I'm not saying I'm like LeBron-rich," he quipped, referring to the US basketball superstar LeBron James, "but I'm comfortable, I'm okay.

"It's not stressful any more."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'Armed with arrows, right on target'. Print Edition | Subscribe