Top 3: Para archery stories of 2022

Matt Stutzman shoots at the Dubai 2022 World Archery Para Championships.

One year on from an inspirational Paralympic Games in Tokyo, there was another packed calendar for para archers, with a World Archery Para Championships in Dubai, a European Para Championships in Rome, plus plenty of other major internationals.

(Including a Para Pan Am Championships still upcoming in Santiago in November.)

As another international season draws to a close, here’s a look back at some of the biggest para archery stories in 2022.

3) Zuniga versus the world

In the space of a only year, Mariana Zuniga won the Para Pan Am Games, made a dream debut at the Paralympics by winning silver – and then represented Chile at the World Games.

Three years prior, the then 16-year-old had been taking her first shots with a bow, telling her mother: “Can you imagine that? I could travel all over the world competing, visiting beautiful places”.

She inherited her ticket to the World Games when Paralympic Champion Phoebe Paterson Pine withdrew.

Zuniga would lose her opening match to Belgium’s Sarah Prieels by just a point. The event, though, was another significant milestone in the journey of an archer on an exciting trajectory. Her next stop? A home Pan and Para Pan Am Championships in Santiago this November.

2) Pooja’s comeback

A decade ago, Pooja Jatyan wasn’t aware of the para side of archery. At only 13 years, she shot in able-bodied events and displayed talented, winning medals in India.

The course of life took her away from the sport.

“I had to take a break from it after I got married [and] I tried many things – studies, business – but archery [was] above everything. [It was] something I [could not] leave behind so I decided to return to the sport and follow my dream,” she said earlier this year.

Jaytan picked up her bow once again in 2018. She finished 17th at the World Archery Para Championships in 2019 and was close to the podium at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Indonesia, placing fifth.

"I promised to myself then that I am going to win medals for my country,” she said. “My only objective was to work hard to win medals.”

Her effort was rewarded at this year’s World Archery Para Championships in Dubai. Pooja won silver – collecting another major medal for an emerging Indian para archery programme, which is anchored by last summer’s Paralympic medallist Harvinder Singh.

1) The Armless Final

“It’s going to be awesome, going to go viral,” said Matt Stutzman ahead of his clash with Aleksandr Gombozhapov, another armless archer at the 2022 World Archery Para Championships.

The pair would shoot against each other for gold.

But there was more – Stutzman was the reason that Gombozhapov had picked up a bow, only three years prior, after losing both arms and a leg in a train accident. “At that moment I didn't think I would do any sport,” he said. But friends showed him a video of Stutzman on YouTube.

“Everybody’s going to start shooting with their feet next year,” joked Matt. “I still want to win but if he wins I will be just as happy for him as I would be myself because that's why we do what we do… inspire people to grow the sport.”

Stutzman won the match – and his first career world title – 142-137.