A Little About the Para Team

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.

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VI Archers Finals

June 5:

Our teammates in the other categories continued to shoot in their elimination rounds. The four of us enjoyed cheering them on. Some continued on in the competition and others suffered the same fate as Mark and I.

In the evening, the organizers set up the range for the visually impaired final matches. We had asked our head coach, George, and our team manager, Dan, if it would be alright if we stayed for the VI finals and took the last bus back to the hotel. They said we were more than welcome to do so. We were really happy when some of the coaches , along with some of our teammates wanted to stay as well.

The medal matches are shot a little differently from the elimination rounds. They still shoot set matches, but the archers take turns shooting their arrows. The first match was between VI-1 archers from Spain and Andorra. This was the bronze medal match. The hire ranking archer chooses whether they want to shoot first or second. The whistle sounds and the first archer has 30 seconds to shoot an arrow. As soon as the archer shoots, the clock restarts and the second archer has 30 seconds to shoot an arrow. This continues until each archer has shot 3 arrows. Then the end is scored. The winner of that end gets 2 points and the loser gets 0. If there is a tie, each archer gets 1 point. You need 6 points to win. It would just take 3 ends, or it could take more than that. It was a good competition and Spain beat Andorra and won bronze. Then it was time for Belgium and Cyprus to shoot for gold and silver. This also was a good match. Belgium was very strong, but Cyprus really made Belgium work for it. Rubin from Belgium won the gold and Cyprus won silver. Rubin was overjoyed! We were so happy for him! Then the bronze medal match between 2 VI 2/3 archers, both from Great Brittan took place. Philip was the underdog. Nick had won a medal at the European Nationals last year. Nick prevailed and we moved to the gold medal match between Steve from Great Brittan and Giovani from Italy. Steve holds all the records and has won every competition that he participates in as a VI 2/3 archer. Giovani fought hard to break Steve’s winning streak, but in the end was unsuccessful and took the silver.

Immediately following the matches was the awards ceremony. I was so proud to be a witness to how far we’ve come building the VI categories. It was wonderful to have so many countries represented in the awards ceremony. For VI-1 we had Belgium, Cyprus and Andorra. In the VI 2/3 we had 2 from Great Brittan and 1 from Italy.

When we got back to the hotel, the team gathered for the team meeting to discuss the next day’s schedule. We were so pleased when the coaches and teammates told us how glad they were that they decided to stay to watch the VI matches and how impressed they were with the competitions. This really meant a lot to us.

Here are some pictures that Courtney and Kerry took at the medal ceremony.

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Eliminations and Finals

June 4-5:

I didn’t write yesterday because I had a lot to digest and wanted to process before I would be able to properly tell the story.

Yesterday were the elimination rounds for both visually impaired categories. Mark and I decided we’d like to take a later bus to the venue so that we could get up leisurely since our competition wouldn’t be until 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The four of us got to the venue around 11:45 and went straight to the practice range to get some practice in. Courtney worked with both of us, helping us get our timing down and focusing on what would make a strong shot.

During that time, Rubin from Belgium came with his assistant, Paul to get some practice in as well. He sat down with us for a little while and I got a chance to chat with him and catch up with what he’s been up to since I saw him 10 years ago. He told me his wife had come to the Netherlands to watch him shoot and was staying at a camel farm while she is here. We were all really amazed about that. I’ve never heard of a camel farm. I was really pleased to meet her later that evening in the dining room. She is such a sweet lady and we both were looking forward to finally meeting. She said Rubin talks so much about me and I told her that Courtney and I have enjoyed following Rubin and her on Facebook.

Anyway, after our practice we grabbed some lunch and walked around the venue for a bit. There are a lot of tents set up for venders, but a lot of them aren’t occupied yet.

Then it was time to go to the competition field to get ready for the elimination rounds. They had assigned the VI archers to targets 2 through 16. Both categories would shoot elimination rounds at the same time. A few minutes before we began, I called my mom on Facebook Messenger and showed her the range and competitors. It was so fun to share the moment with her!

We began with the 1/8 round which consisted only of Stuart from Great Brittan and Hazel from Australia from the VI-1 category. They were competing to see who would move on to the quarter finals. They were the only ones to shoot this 1/8 round because the VI-1 category had 9 competitors and so it had to be brought down to 8 for the quarter finals. Stuart won this match and moved on to the quarter finals round.

This is how elimination matches work. We shoot what are called set matches. We shoot 3 arrows in 2 minutes, stop to score those arrows, and repeat this until one archer reaches 6 points. Each time you shoot 3 arrows in 2 minutes, it is called an “end.” After the first end, whoever scores the most points gets 2 points and the loser of that end receives 0 points. If there is a tie, each archer receives 1 point. You continue to shoot these ends until an archer receives 6 points, so it could be over in 3 ends or it could take more than that. If there is a tie with both archers accruing 5 points, there is a shoot-off of one arrow each. Whoever wins the shoot-off wins the match and moves on to the semifinals. The semifinals determine who will be shooting in the gold medal round and who will be shooting in the bronze medal match. The winners move to the gold medal match and the losers move to the bronze medal match.

So we began our quarterfinal match. We were pared up with an archer based on our ranking. For example, I was ranked 4 and Daniel from Spain was ranked 5. Rubin from Belgium was ranked 1 and Stuart was ranked 8, so they were pared up. In Mark’s category, he was also ranked 4 so he was pared up with Nick from Great Brittan. Steve from Great Brittan was pared with Anette from Norway who was ranked 8.

The competition began and I won my first 2 ends. I only needed one more end to win. But I faltered and shot 2 misses and started shooting off to the left and so Daniel caught up to me. In the last end I dropped a shot into the black ring and Daniel pulled ahead and won the match. So I was out of the game. Half the field was eliminated, and the remaining 4 archers from each category moved on to the semifinals. My journey was ended just like that. Mark suffered the same fate. He and his opponent also had a good competition going. They tied for one of their ends, but Nick pulled ahead and that was that.

I will say that it was very disappointing for both of us. It’s not easy for me knowing how close I was to winning and how quickly it slipped away, but that’s the nature of competition. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. In elimination rounds, the number of competitors drops off by half in every round.

Mark and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to compete against our peers at the next international competition! It’s an incredible thing to experience and be part of.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how the competition ended up for the VI archers. In spite of our losses, Mark and I, and our wonderful supportive spouses enjoyed watching the medal matches this afternoon. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures this time. I’ll get some together for my next post.

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Day 3: Qualifying rounds

June 3:

This morning we left the hotel at 8:00. When we arrived at the venue, Mark and Kerry went straight to the competition field to set up for his qualifying round which started at 10:00. Courtney and I headed to the practice range so I could get some shooting in before my competition at 1:30. My plan was to shoot some, go watch Mark shoot for a while, go back to the practice field for a bit more shooting and then have lunch before my competition. The officials at the practice range let me keep my sighting equipment set up while we took a break to watch Mark, so we didn’t have to tear down and set up again. I wish we could have watched Mark shoot more, but he understood that I had to focus on my competition too. Mark enjoyed a very competitive field of archers and came in 4th out of 8. He’s in a good position for tomorrows eliminations. I too had some very tough competitors and came in 4th out of 9 in my division. During the competition, the announcer would update the spectators on who was in what place in the competition, so we were well aware of how our competitors were doing and where we were in the rankings. I went back and forth with Andorra and Great Brittan. I was hoping to make it into 3rd place, but Andorra was just more consistent than me. It was so fun to be shooting on a field of so many visually impaired archers! We really made an impressive showing for our division.

I have to tell you about the deaf/blind archer from great Brittan. His name is John Nichols. We’ve chatted on Facebook Messenger in the past and had quite a conversation. I’ve been looking forward to meeting him in person. His spotter/assistant communicates with him by signing in his hand, but when he’s shooting, he touches his back to indicate where his arrows are landing on the target. The center of his back is center of target, of course. He touches on the left, right, top and bottom to indicate those variations. If he misses the target rings, he swipes down his side or across his back to indicate where the miss was. If he gets a bullseye, he touches him on his shoulder. I approached John right before the competition to give him a USA Archery trading pin and wish him luck and his spotter/assistant showed me how to sign “USA” in his hand. He grasped my hand in appreciation. John then traced the letters for “HELLO” in my hand and I did the same to him. Then he gave me a thumbs up by putting my hand around his. It was a pretty great experience.

Tomorrow are the elimination rounds for VI archers. Mark and I are both shooting in middle positions. In elimination rounds, the first place ranked shoots against the last place ranked. The second place shoots against the second to last place, and so on. I will be shooting against Spain, who is ranked 7th. Mark will be shooting against Great Brittan who is also ranked 7th. In my division, the archer from Belgium came in 1st and broke the world record by about 60 points. He gets what is called a buy and doesn’t have to shoot the first round of eliminations. He will shoot in the second round. I’m really happy for Rubin from Belgium. I shot with him 12 years ago at our first world championships and again in 2009. He’s come a long way and it’s wonderful for him to be having such success.

Here are a few pictures Kerry took during my competition.


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Day 1: Official Practice And Equipment Check

June 2:

It was a very warm, humid day today. But now it’s about 10:00 at night, the window is wide open and we’re listening to thunder and a light rain. It’s just wonderful!

Today was a big day. Our mighty VI four was broken up and Mark and Kerry left with half the team at 8:30 because he is classified as a VI-2/3 archer. Their slot for practice and equipment inspection was at 12:00. Courtney and I had to stay behind and take the 11:45 bus because I’m classified VI-1 and my time slot began at 2:15. That worked well for us because we could sleep in a bit and go to breakfast. Then we decided to walk out to the practice range to say hello to the Annette, the visually impaired archer from Norway. Annette and I have been chatting on Messenger, but have never met. She had thought that she would be classified in my division, but turned out she is in Marks division. She is the only visually impaired archer in Norway.

Then it was time to hop on the bus and go to the venue.

We got there in time to have lunch and watch Mark shoot. There are 7 competitors in marks class and 8 in mine. Basically, during official practice we are allowed to shoot at the target position that we’ve been assigned for actual competition. We shoot as if we will be scoring, with the timer, but we don’t score. We had 1 hour and 45 minutes to shoot. During this time we go through equipment inspection. The officials came to our location and checked our classification cards, measured our sighting equipment which need to fall under certain specifications, measure the poundage we are pulling on our bows and check our blackout glasses to be sure you can’t see through them. Yesterday I mentioned that the competition field was under the trees, but that nice shade is only there in the morning. My whole practice was done in the sun. The temperature was only in the high 80’s, but the humidity was really high and that’s why it felt so warm. I was pretty happy with my shooting and it was so great being back on the shooting line with so many of my peers. I’m really excited for competition tomorrow!

When we were done shooting, Courtney and I walked with some coaches and teammates to a store where we picked up some necessities such as peanut M&M’s and Stroopwafelsand, a wonderful cookie they are known for here. We’ll try to bring some home with us.

We finally arrived back at the hotel around 8:00 this evening, had a quick dinner and team meeting and now we’re back in the room. Courtney has finished doing laundry and we’re ready to crash.

Tomorrow is a long day. We’re all leaving on the bus at 8:00 and are competitions are scheduled to run all day. I shoot sometime in the afternoon. Mark shoots at 10:00. These are the ranking rounds so we are hoping to do well so we will be ranked high. This would help in the elimination rounds.

Here are some pictures from my practice today. I didn’t get a chance to get any pictures from Kerry this time. Hay Mom, look at my umbrella! We’ve been wanting one of those for a long time, haven’t we!


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Finally, A Day Of Practice In the Venue

June 1:

I didn’t write yesterday because the day was much like the day before. We didn’t leave the hotel, but got some good practice time in.

This morning the team finally left the hotel by bus and were taken to the venue in S-hertogenbosch where the competition will take place. The bus ride took about 40 minutes. The practice field is in a park and the official field for competition is on the adjacent rugby field. The practice field has what seems like a wooden deck along the shooting line to make it easier for the archers using wheelchairs. The official field is artificial turf and is soft and flat. The practice field is quite sunny and it was pretty warm today. Fortunately we had our umbrellas for shade. The shooting line on the official competition field is tree-lined and will be nice and shady.

Mark and I got a lot of shooting in with a few of the VI archers who have just arrived. We shot with Hazel from Australia, Daniel from Spain and Jordi from Andorra. I shot against Hazel at the world championships in Germany in 2015 and with Jordi at the tournament last year in Andorra. So fun to be with them again.

So far I’m happy with how I’m doing during practice. There are a couple of things I’m working on that make or break my shot and I need to be more consistent. I have one more day to get this down and then the competition will begin.

When we arrived back at the hotel this evening, we saw Rubin from Belgium and his coach, Paul, at the hotel practice field. We haven’t seen Rubin since the world championships in Czech Republic in 2009. It was so fun to reunite after so long.

The hotel is full of archers now. I heard someone say the archers own the hotel right now because we take up most of the rooms, if not all. It will be fun meeting so many new people, especially new visually impaired archers.

Today World Archery did international classifications for the visually impaired archers who didn’t already have one. Archers are required to be tested and receive an international classification in order to compete in a world ranking event. Mark and I have ours, so we didn’t have to worry about that fortunately. If you read my blog from the world championships in Germany, you’ll remember how devastated Mark was when he was denied a classification after traveling all the way to Germany to compete. Unfortunately, the same thing has happened to 3 out of the 5 archers from Belgium. There were supposed to be 5 archers from Belgium competing, and now there are just 2. We spoke to one of the Belgium archers and his assistant this evening on our way to dinner and we found out he was one of the archers denied a classification, and he is the top visually impaired archer in Belgium. We could really relate to how devastated he and his assistant were feeling. He is deaf/blind and has tunnel vision. He has some vision at close range, about 10 feet, but not further out than that. The testing done for classification is done within 10 feet. This doesn’t seem like a very good test since visually impaired archers shoot at a distance of 30 meters. The controversy surrounding this test is on-going and it will be interesting to see what it will take to resolve it in the future.

Tomorrow we begin official practice in S-hertogenbosch. We’ll be bused there in two shifts. It’s unfortunate that Mark and I are scheduled to shoot at different times and so won’t be at the venue at the same time. He and Kerry will leave at 8:30 in the morning and come back to the hotel before I’m scheduled to shoot. Courtney and I will leave the hotel at 11:45 and not return until around 8:00 in the evening. It will be a long day.

Here are some pictures from the venue today.


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Photos From Our Dart Game

Here are some photos from our dart game this evening. You can see we are quite an eclectic group! For those of you who aren’t able to see the pictures, Team Tall and Short has one of the coaches and a teammate who uses a wheelchair; Team See No Limits has a coach and a blind archer; Team Missing Triple has a gentleman with one arm and another gentleman with no arms; and Team Army Strong has a visually impaired archer and his wife. I hope you can see how much fun we were having!

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