I should explain a little about the other categories of archers in Paralympic archery. First of all, Paralympic athletes shoot under the same world organization as Olympic athletes. The difference is that Paralympic archers have a physical disability. Paralympic archers can compete at the Paralympic games which happen the same year as the Olympic Games. In addition to the visually impaired categories for Paralympic archery, there is W1, Men and Women Compound Open, and Men and Women Recurve Open.
Compound and recurve refers to the style of bow that is shot. These styles of bows are shot by any archer and have nothing to do with the archer being Paralympic or Olympic. A compound bow has what are called cams that act like pulleys. The cams control the tension while the archer draws back the string. The tension is high when you begin pulling back the string, but lets off considerably when you come to full draw. A recurve bow does not have the cams. The tension when you begin drawing a recurve bow is relatively light, but increases as you reach full draw, making it more difficult to control.
A visually impaired archer can shoot either style of bow and the men and women shoot together. A W1 archer uses a wheelchair and has severe paralysis or a condition such as multiple sclerosis that severely limits their strength or coordination. Men and women can shoot together in this category. They shoot a compound bow. Archers who shoot in the Open categories can have a wide variety of disabilities including loss of limb, cerebral palsy, polio, etc. They may or may not need to use a wheelchair. For more technical information, you could go to the Paralympic section of the USA Archery or World Archery web sites.
Here are a couple of examples of adaptations that are used by our Para archers.
Eric shoots Men’s Recurve Open. He is missing 1 arm and so he pulls back the bow using a mouth tab. A mouth tab is a piece of nylon that is tied to the string of the bow. The archer bites down on the tab with his back teeth. When he is at full draw, he drops his jaw to release the string.
Matt shoots Men’s Compound Open. He calls himself The Armless Archer. Matt holds the bow with his feet, putting the bow between his big toe and second toe, hooks the string onto a release on a shoulder strap, and when he is at full draw, he uses his jaw to push on the trigger which releases the string.
Here are some pictures from our team’s matches this week. Some of them are from elimination rounds and others are from the medal matches. The USA came home with gold and bronze medals in Men’s Individual Compound Open, silver in Men’s Individual Recurve Open and gold in Men’s Team Recurve Open.