Paralympics / London 2012 / Armless archer eyes more than full freezer
29 year-old from Iowa was born without arms, but driven by desire, he took up the sport and now stands just two victories away from winning gold at the London Games.
If you thought archery required a steady hand then American Paralympian Matt Stutzman is ready to shoot an arrow through your preconceptions.
The 29 year-old from Iowa was born without arms, but driven by a desire to prove people wrong and "put food in the freezer," he took up the sport and now stands just two victories away from winning gold at the London Games. He has rightly drawn gasps of amazement from the terraces at the makeshift archery arena at the Royal Artillery Barracks as the only person in the competition shooting without arms.
He has a remarkable technique in which he grasps the bow with his foot and draws back the string with the aid of a hook on his shoulder and releases the arrow using his mouth. Such is the complexity of the maneuver; he is unsurprisingly the only archer he knows in the world who has his disability.
"When you think of archery you don't think of a guy without arms shooting," he said in an interview after he beat countryman Dugie Denton 6-4 to progress to the final four on Sunday. "In fact even now, in the Olympic village, people think I am a swimmer or something of that sort and they are like, 'Wow, you are an archer - what?'"
Like many young men from America's Midwest, Stutzman is a keen hunter and archery was a natural progression from shooting.
"I picked up a bow about two-and-a-half years ago; it was because I hunt and that is how we provide for our families," he said. "We shoot deer and stuff like that. I realize with a bow you could get more animals and get more food for your freezer."
As he stepped off the range, he was surrounded by a German film crew who are making a documentary featuring him. "If you think this is impressive, you should see him shoot a machine gun," the director whispered as he approached.
Born in Kansas City in 1982, Stutzman was put up for adoption at four months. It was January the following year when Leon and Jean Stutzman took him home as their son. He was raised on a farm in Kalona, Iowa, and educated at a local Christian school where his dad was principal. His family, however, were resolute in the determination that they would not pander to his disability.
"My parents are wonderful people and they have molded me into the person I am today," he said. "They never catered to me and they just wanted me to try my hardest to figure something out first. They realized that once I got out in the world, if they had modified the house and I went to Walmart and it was not modified - then I would to know what to do. So they have always taught me to learn how to handle situations."
Stutzman is stubbornly determined and admits he is attracted to things that people think he cannot do. He has a driver's license for a pedal-operated car and built his first vehicle at 14 using just his feet.
He boasted that there is a video on YouTube of him changing brakes that has attracted more than 200,000 hits.
"That is my personality," he explained. "I always joke that the best way to get me to do something is tell me I couldn't do it."
His family is in London to cheer him on, including his wife Amber and sons Carter and Cameron. They will be in the crowd to see him face Spain's Guillermo Gonzalez Rodriguez in a make-or-break semifinal Monday.
"My whole goal being here is that if I could just inspire one person positively then that would be huge and I would be satisfied with that," he said. "I have had more than one person say I am an inspiration, so I have accomplished that and the next goal is just trying to win a medal for the country."
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