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'Armless' archer eyes cheez-it!

Last updated on: May 15, 2015 14:37 IST
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Matt Stutzman

Matt Stutzman of the United States competes in the men's Individual Compound Archery at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Photograph: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

In the Hindu epic Maharabata, Eklavya didn't have his right thumb, yet was noted as a very powerful archer.

And 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, he took up the sport and won a silver medal at London Olympics in 2012. He was the only person in the competition shooting without arms.

Today, he can fire an arrow and hit a cheez-it, the cheese-flavored cracker, from 100 yards away. (an average cheez-it covers one square inch of space)

‘When you think of archery you don't think of a guy without arms shooting’

Matt Stutzman of the United States

Matt Stutzman of the United States competes. Photograph: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

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 manoeuver, 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 the Olympic village people thought I was a swimmer or something of that sort and they are like, 'wow, you are an archer, what?'."

Like many young men from America's mid-west, Stutzman is a keen hunter and archery was a natural progression from shooting.

"I picked up a bow about five years ago and it was because I hunt and that is how we provide for our families," he said.

‘Best way to get me to do something is tell me I couldn't do it’

Matt Stutzman


Born in Kansas City in 1982, Stutzman was put up for adoption at four months old. 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 their determination that they would not pander to his disability.

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 boasts that there is a video on YouTube of him changing brakes that has attracted more than 200,000 views.

"That is my personality," he says.

"I always joke that the best way to get me to do something is tell me I couldn't do it."

When he was growing up there was little he could not do, but admits they were a few things he should not have done.

He was a bit of a tearaway and, according to his mum, had several brushes with the law.

"Everybody does things they shouldn't when they are younger," he said, before refusing to elaborate on the nature of his misadventures.

"I did some stuff that I shouldn't have done and that is all in the past now. I made peace with what happened and I am moving forward."

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