I can’t believe it’s been one month since I returned from the World Archery Para Championships in Donaueschingen, Germany. This really was a pivotal year for visually impaired para archers and something I was thrilled to be part of. You’ve probably read all you care to about my trip, but I’d just like to reflect on Three things that stand out in my mind that made this trip important for me, two of which I believe are also significant to the sport of archery for competitive visually impaired archers, present and future.
The first I guess is pretty obvious; it’s a personal achievement of my own – winning the gold medal and establishing the world record in individual 30 meters-72 arrows, Visually Impaired 1. I was thrilled and honored to represent the United States on the field and at the medal ceremony and to hear our National Anthem being played. Having worked hard on my physical and mental game, it felt great when it all came together for me during the gold medal match in front of about 200 spectators and broadcast over Archery TV for family and friends to watch live.
The second thing that I think was significant resulted out of a great personal disappointment for my fellow visually impaired US archer, Mark Schrand, but hopefully will bring about much needed improvement in the classification process for visually impaired archers. Because of the visually impaired division being broken into two classifications (VI-1 and VI-2/3), all visually impaired participants had to be classified in Donaueschingen the day before the World Championships began. Mark and I followed all the guidelines set by World Archery, including appointments with our own ophthalmologists, having the proper tests performed, and emailing the results to World Archery prior to arriving in Germany. My classification was cut-and-dry since I’m totally blind, and I received my VI-1 classification. However, the vision testing protocol required by the ophthalmologist in Germany proved to be quite arbitrary and inaccurate for measuring a person who has some vision. Mark was denied a classification because he had enough vision to see the chart shown to him in a small room with controlled lighting. As you know, Mark was devastated. The silver lining is that World Archery met regarding the protest Mark filed and agreed that the sight classification process needs to be re-evaluated before any classifications are done in the future. World Archery said there will be no more sight classifications performed for archery until this issue has been resolved. Although he was devastated at not being able to participate in the competition, his presence was invaluable to the advancement of visually impaired archery internationally.
We look forward to pursuing this and making sure this topic remains at the top of World Archery’s list of priorities for Para-Archery.
Last, but certainly not least, was just being a part of the whole visually impaired presence at the World Championships, which allowed for an on-going dialog throughout the entire competition regarding how to best integrate this category into the competition format. World Archery organizers and officials, checked in with each of the visually impaired archers throughout the qualifying and medal matches, making sure our unique needs such as space on the practice field and proper sighting-in time for competition were met. I was really impressed with how dedicated they were to integrating the visually impaired archers into the competition program and not putting us off on another field or rushing through our competition to get it out of the way, as had been done at prior world championship events. They came up with a good method for achieving quick set-up of our sighting equipment for the medal matches, and they were pleased that we stayed within the acceptable time parameters needed for the television broadcast. Who could ask for more!
This was a big hurdle to get over in order to be allowed to compete in the Paralympic Games in the near future, hopefully in 2020. In the meantime, we’ll get ready for the next world championships in two years and hope for an even larger turnout by the visually impaired archers!
As time goes on, I hope to write about the progress being made on behalf of archers who are visually impaired. Please let me know if you, or anyone you know who is visually impaired, is interested in trying archery. Also, let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to write about on my blog.