For a sport with a rich history in the Paralympic Games, archery has plenty of unforgettable moments that has left an everlasting impression on sports enthusiast across the globe. IPC has zeroed in on five instances ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics:
Finland’s Jere Forsberg vs. USA’s Matt Stutzman in the 2012 Paralympic final
One of the most thrilling finals in recent memory was the men’s individual compound open at London 2012. Matt Stutzman, famously known as the ‘Armless Archer’, captured global attention with his unique way of shooting with his feet. On the other side, then 18-year-old, Jere Forsberg making a name for himself at his Paralympic debut. Despite being the underdog in the final match, Forsberg went on to beat the highly popular Stutzman, 6-4.
Forsberg recalling that savoring moment said: “During the final I felt really calm actually, excluding the last end. I think that I was more nervous during the semi-final. My thoughts during the final was that I am going to win the gold if I continue to shoot as I had shot in earlier matches and that I need to get the job done as I have gotten this far.
“I think the first thought after my last arrow hit the 10 was relief, that now it's over. I didn't want the final to go to one arrow shoot off. After that the realisation that I had won Paralympic gold in my first Paralympics hit me and that was one of the best feelings I have ever had.”
Neroli Fairhall’s Paralympic gold in 1980
The late Fairhall was a star in both athletics and archery, but she achieved most success in the latter. Her breakthrough moment in the sport occurred at the Arnhem 1980 Paralympics, where she captured gold ahead of Finland’s Eli Korva. It was a defining moment, as Fairhall’s talent was noticed further and she earned her place in the national team for the 1984 Olympics and became the first paraplegic athlete to compete in the Olympics.
Brian Froggatt, athletics and powerlifting athlete, who witnessed Fairhall’s gold medal moment said: “I remember being really interested in how Neroli went at the Paralympic Games as I had previously competed in archery myself.
“I remember that we all expected Neroli to win a medal, she was one of the favourites for gold. She had a very calm personality which you need for target archery. Not much put her off and she had superb concentration so we knew she could do it.
“Everyone in the team was thrilled that she did win it, she was such a nice person. It gave everyone a good boost and psychologically it was amazing for a team member to win gold. I remember her great smile that day, she was definitely ready to celebrate afterwards.”
Zahra Nemati retaining Paralympic title in 2016
The Iranian was an instant legend at the 2016 Paralympics, drawing attention and respect from international competitors and fans. Her appearance in the Olympics and the Paralympics, along with her tireless efforts to advocate for women in sports made Nemati a role model athlete.
In Rio, she beat China’s World Champion Wu Chunyan in the gold medal match for the recurve women’s open, defending her title from London 2012, where she became the first Iranian to win gold at an Olympic or Paralympic Games.
“Rio 2016 gold medal means so much to me because it is believed among the athletes that reclaiming gold medal is much harder than winning it for the first time,” Nemati said.
“For sure London 2012 appeals to me more, since it was the first gold medal for the Iranian women in either Olympics or Paralympics. By winning that gold medal, I could break a mental barrier and prove it that Iranian ladies can be the best.”
Rise of the next generation
The youngest archer at a Paralympics, Jessica Stretton, won the W1 competition at her Games debut in Rio. She was just 16 years old and lead an all-British sweep of the event. It was only the second time in history a nation had swept the archery podium at a Paralympics.
Start of the Paralympic Movement in 1948
Running parallel to the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organised the first competition for wheelchair athletes which was named the Stoke Mandeville Games.
The competition involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery, and it later evolved into the Paralympic Games with eight total Para sport events in 1960.