Armless archer aims for gold at Rio Paralympics

Matt Stutzman previously won silver at Paralympics in London

Matt Stutzman, Paralympics, archery
Matt Stutzman during an exhibition at the Olympic Summit in Los Angeles on March 8, 2016.


LOS ANGELES (WOOD) — The Olympic Games in Rio start in only about two weeks, but the Paralympic Games don’t begin until September.

The Olympics are always inspiring, but they’ve got nothing on the Paralympics. Every athlete in those games has a story of overcoming adversity.

Among them is Matt Stutzman. Born without arms, he is now one of the top archers in the world. Stutzman, an Iowa native, said he first picked up a bow in October 2009. In 2012, he won a silver medal at the Paralympics in London.

When he shoots, Stutzman sits down, picks up an arrow with his right foot and loads it. He holds the bow with his right foot and extends his leg. A modified release aid holds the arrow and string close to his body to draw. He tilts his head to aim and then releases with great accuracy.

Last year, he set a world record by hitting a target from more than 930 feet — more than three football fields, to put that in perspective.

Stutzman was adopted as a child and his parents refused to make any provisions in the family home, so he had to learn to live without arms. Now he eats and drives with his feet. He can do pretty much whatever he needs to.

“We grew up on a farm. We had cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, everything you can imagine. And I had to do chores, just like everyone else. I tried to get out of it: ‘I have no arms, I can’t do that.’ And he goes, ‘Well, you don’t eat if you don’t do it,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m hungry so I’m going to figure out how to do it,'” Stutzman recalled. “And I would feed the cows and scoop poop in the pig pen, and gather the eggs, and feed the dogs and the cats, just like my other siblings. And I quickly learned that hard work is what it would take for me to become something in life.”

He said when he loses his flexibility, he’ll consider prosthetic arms. For now, he’s pretty comfortable in his own skin and looking forward to trying to win a gold medal in Rio.

The Olympics start Aug. 5 and end Aug. 21. The Paralympics run Sept. 7 to Sept. 18.

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