Together again: Para archers reunited at world championships
For many of the 246 para-archers that travelled to Beijing, the World Archery Para Championships mark the only time they compete against one another. The biennial competition is more than just a test of the greatest talents in para archery, it’s also a family affair.
“It doesn’t matter what country you are in for a competition, you’re coming home,” said Shaun Anderson of South Africa. “You pick right up where you left off with your old buddies.”
With the youngest archer only 15 years old (Asia Pellizzari of Italy) and the oldest at 71 (Charles Lear from the United States), the field presents a mixture of new faces and old favourites.
“It is amazing to see all of the great archers here and how comfortable they are,” said veteran archer and multiple gold medallist David Drahoninsky. “I try to meet all the new archers so I can welcome them.”
Drahoninsky said the facilities have improved immensely during his 16-year career:
“In my five world championships, it just gets better every time. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
"I’ve been world number one since [the Paralympics in] 2008 in Beijing. I’m happy when I’m number one, but I’m happier to see the category growing. It is important, but what I do for archery is more important.”
The 2017 World Archery Para Championships took place at the China Administration for Sports for Persons with Disabilities, a dedicated para sports centre on the outskirts of Beijing, built for Beijing 2008 and used as a training home and venue for para athletes from across the country.
Athletes slept, ate and competed at the venue.
“To be on the line with all these talented para archers, that is something special. I get much more shaky and nervous in these competitions because of the talent on the line,” said Marcel Pavlik.
Athletes bond over shared experiences from living with impairment, either acquired or born, trying to stand out and make a difference and competing against able-bodied individuals.
“I’ve been waiting for this competition. I’m usually a pretty shy person, but here I feel like I belong,” said Poland’s Milena Olszewska.
In para sport, these athletes find purpose and comfort – as well as the opportunity to compete.
“It’s great being part of a world event, the atmosphere is indescribable,” said the USA’s Kevin Mather. “Archery is something that truly transcends culture, people and things, and to be a part of that – it’s phenomenal.”
The 2017 World Archery Para Championships run 12-17 September in Beijing, China.