Matt’s message to Parisian schoolkids: Barriers are imaginary
Legendary Armless Archer Matt Stutzman visited a class of schoolchildren in Paris in early October as part of Paralympic Day celebrations in the French capital.
Known as the first archer to compete internationally using his legs and feet, he gave a demonstration and spent some time talking to the kids, sharing a message of inclusivity.
“Showing that I can shoot a bow with no arms opens their minds to see what they can do as individuals,” the 40-year-old said. “I feel like it’s important to show them that anything is possible. Now their brain is open to endless thinking, and I think it’s important to grow the future.”
Matt, who was born without arms, has already changed the landscape of para archery.
He was one of three archers shooting with their feet – Piotr Van Montagu and Aleksandr Gombozhapov were the other two – when he became a World Archery Para Champion last year in Dubai, before the first female international archer without arms, Sheetal Devi, burst onto the international scene this season at just 16 years of age.
“It proves anybody can shoot a bow,” Stutzman said. “A bow just wants to be shot, it doesn’t care it’s been shot with arms or with a foot, it just wants to fling an arrow.”
Stutzman has developed his own customised equipment and shooting technique, which involves holding the bow with the right foot and triggering the release with his jaw.
He was Paralympic silver medallist at London 2012 before winning his world title a decade later and reaching the world number one spot in the para world rankings. He has also taken the range to compete against able-bodied peers, even breaking into the world top 100 of the compound men’s category (71st in 2016).
Matt now has his sights set on a fourth consecutive Paralympic appearance next year in Paris.
“I try not to think about the outcome, obviously I want to give my best,” he said. “If I can just go into it and perform to the best of my ability and show the world that anything is possible, then no matter what the outcome is, that’s my win.”
Stutzman’s visit to the Parisian classroom was part of a tour to launch a countdown to the Paralympic Games.
He also went to Stoke Mandeville to take part in the announcement that the Paralympic flame would be lit in the birthplace of Paralympic sport, at the hospital where archery was used as a rehabilitation activity for wounded veterans, from Paris 2024 onwards.
Tickets for the archery competitions at the next Paralympic Games recently went on sale. Sessions are priced at 15 EUR (eliminations) or 20 EUR (finals), with discounts for children and family groups.
Image courtesy French archery federation.