Kevin Mather: I couldn’t imagine doing nothing

Kevin Mather is an athlete. There’s never been any question about it.

He tried many sports in early life: soccer, baseball, football, snowboarding, skiing… As an adult, Mather was a competitive triathlete, who was hit by a truck during a bike ride at the age of 26.

The accident left Mather paralyzed from the waist down, but that didn’t stop him from moving.

Identifiable by his bright red hair and easy-going attitude, the 35-year-old archer was one of the 246 athletes on the field at the Beijing 2017 World Archery Para Championships

“Archery is a more mellow sport and it is what I need right now,” said Mather. “I’ve always been attracted to sports that call for focus and solitude.” 

“I have always been active and I love being outside. I was never going to stop doing things. I couldn’t imagine sitting down and not doing anything.”

Before his accident, Mather’s dream was to be an Ironman. He held onto that dream and finished second in the physically challenged division of the 2012 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

Experiences that seem really hard, or intense, they are awesome to me. I get a special thrill,” he said.

Mather moved on to skiing and represented Team USA at the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in January 2017. He even has a pilot’s license for hand-operated glider planes.

While volunteering with spinal cord injury patients in Denver, Mather joined a friend to shoot a few arrows. He was hooked.

Mather shot indoors for two years, until he decided to shoot competitively: “My coach told me: well, you should probably shoot outdoors then.” 

That was in June 2017, approximately eight weeks before Beijing. 

On 16 July 2017, Mather went to the national para archery trials with an open mind.

He finished third in the recurve men’s open event behind top-ranked Michael Lukow and Timothy Palumbo, earning himself a spot on the worlds team.

“I am fully committed to archery now,” said Mather. “I joked to my coaches that if I made the team I would stop skiing and then it happened, so I did.”

Mather’s athletic background gives him strength and balance, which helps when sitting in his wheelchair for long periods of time. His triathlon experience built versatility and toughness.

“I try to let down the barriers and throw myself all into something. You never know until you go for it,” he said.

There wasn’t, unfortunately, a fairytale ending in Beijing: Mather finished 37th in the recurve men’s open qualification round and lost in the first round of the eliminations.

“When I get frustrated, I try to remind myself that I’ve only been shooting outside for two months,” he said.

For now, Mather is going to keep shooting – and see where that takes him.

The 2017 World Archery Para Championships ran 12-17 September in Beijing, China.