Kevin ‘Rooster’ Mather crowned Paralympic Champion in Games debut
Kevin Mather raised his arms in celebration as the target judge upgraded a line call in the fifth set of the final from a nine to a 10, giving him a 6-4 victory over Zhao Lixue and the title of recurve men’s champion at Tokyo 2020.
These were the 39-year-old’s first Paralympics.
“It feels heavy at the moment. It feels incredible. This is my first time seeing one from these Games up close,” he said, medal in hand after leaving the podium.
“I‘m just blown away. I’m glad that my training was enough. Often, [there are] times you put in the work and shoot until your fingers are calloused, blistered and bloody, and you hope when you show up on the day that you put in enough work.”
“This medal proves that to me.”
Mather, whose nickname is ‘Rooster’, probably owing to his striking red hair, was a surprise entrant into the latter stages of the tournament.
He seeded just 17th in Yumenoshima Park – but delivered a gritty shoot-off upset of the top seed, Iran’s Gholamreza Rahimi, in the second round to spring a run deep into the brackets.
As the rain fell late into the evening, Mather built a commanding lead in the final, winning the first two sets. He then needed an eight with his last arrow of the third to close things in three – but shot a seven.
After the fourth went his Chinese opponent’s way, the fifth was fittingly dramatic.
Zhao shot two 10s and an eight, Mather three nines – but one, sitting on the very top of the 10-ring, was really close. The judge upgraded it and that was enough to push the Rooster over the edge and take the title.
“It‘s always falling back to what works. I’ve shot so many 100s, 1000s of arrows, I know what works by now, so trusting that… and having fun out there,” said Mather.
“There’s so many moments to soak up here, but that definitely is a big one.”
Competition at the Paralympic Games concludes with recurve mixed team finals on Saturday 4 September.