Armless Archer An Inspiration

Matt Stutzman, silver medalist at the 2012 Paralympics, has added another medal to his collection: the gold medal from Indoor Para Archery World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand.

If you’ve ever seen Stutzman compete, it’s a sight you’re not likely to ever forget. That’s because the renowned bow shooter and sportsman who hails from Iowa has no arms, yet holds and aims his compound bow using his right foot.

Stutzman, 32, was born without both of his arms, a condition that affects fewer than one in 200 million people. He started shooting archery in 2009, but he burst onto the world stage with his performance in the Paralympic portion of the London Olympics in 2012. Since that time, he’s been a regular competitor in archery events across the country and around the world.

“I’ve always been an outdoor guy—I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad,” he said.

In Thailand, Stutzman was the top qualified para archer with a score of 582 for the compound open category, mixed-gender group. In the quarterfinals, he met Russia’s Olga Polegaeva, who he defeated with a 145-139 win. Moving on to the semifinals, Stutzman faced Aleksandr Zubar, also of Russia, whose score of 141 points wasn’t quite strong enough to edge out Stutzman, who put up a 144.

In the Gold Medal final, Stutzman shot a 147—just three points shy of perfect—to claim his medal versus Hong Kong’s Wong Siu Wing, who finished with the silver. Bronze went to Russia’s Stepanida Artakhinova. USA Archery this week reported that Stutzman likely shot a new world record at the event, though official word was not yet readily available.

Earlier in 2104, Stutzman was the only archer to shoot a perfect 300 at the North Dakota Bow Hunters Association Indoor 3-D/300 State Archery Championships. And, he was the only disabled competitor participating in the event.

“It’s important for me to show other people with disabilities that you can accomplish things and compete on a higher level even with a disability. For me, that’s more important than winning,” said Stutzman.

Bring It On
Due to his condition, Stutzman adapted early in his life to using his legs and feet to perform daily tasks such as eating and brushing his teeth. He saw archery as just another challenge in life.

“When I first started, I watched YouTube videos every day of an able-bodied man who used his bow and arrow, and basically taught myself how to use different parts of my body,” he told ABC News.

His self-taught method includes several steps. First, he holds the bow in his right foot. Then, he crosses his legs and brings the bow to his waist level. After hooking his release aid to his right shoulder, he sits up and draws the bow. When he’s ready to shoot, he moves his jaw, pulls the trigger and then finally, releases his arrow.

“Archery can be used as a rehabilitation tool—it can make people feel normal again,” Stutzman said. “Because of archery, I can support my family and pay the bills. It makes me feel good as a father and a husband.”

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