Para and Paralympic Archery – Open to Anyone

Anthony Cote
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What is para archery?

Para archery is the same as the regular sport of archery, only the equipment is adapted for people of all abilities. Most people involved in para archery are Paralympians, but that does not mean you have to be disabled to be involved with the sport. Sadly, many people with disabilities who could be great athletes never get to experience competitive sports because they are not included in mainstream competitions. Because of para archery, there is no such thing as not being able to shoot a bow.

There are several rules in traditional archery that have been adapted to be more accessible in para archery. All archers are equipped with a shooting rail and a backstop to catch arrows after shooting. These adaptations make archery accessible to people who may be blind or have difficulty with gross motor skills. Each shooting rail is set at a specific angle and height so that all disabled athletes have a level playing field. Each archer shoots from the same rail and has the same amount of distance between the target and the bow, sight radius, and distance of the shooting line from the target.

History

The Paralympics first started in Rome, Italy in 1960. This was during the 12 days of competition. It was held a year after the 1960 Summer Olympics. In 1992, the Paralympics were held in Barcelona, Spain. They were held in Athens, Greece in 2004 and in Beijing, China in 2008. In 2012, they were held in London, England.

New events have been added over time. One of the first events held in the Paralympic Games is field archery. There are standard recurve bows used in Paralympic competition. The first World Archery Championships for people with disabilities were held in 1998.

Championships and Competitions

What inspired you to become a para-archer?

I was the founder of the National Marlborough Paralympic archery center.

What difficulties did you face to get into the sport?

It took many years of hard work and commitment to get archery accepted in New Zealand.

What are the restrictions you have to deal with while archery?

I have been disabled since 1996 but before that I used to play cricket.

Do you have a coach?

Yes, I have a fulltime coach for Paralympic Archery.

Have you ever been in a team which won a championship or competition?

Yes, I have won a gold medal at the Para-Olympic Championship in Beijing and a silver medal at the Para-Pan-Am Games held in Mexico.

What is the difference between para-archery and Olympic archery?

I started as a Para-archer and gradually I picked up the technique of my Olympic archery. I have been archery since I was 7 years old.

What is your favorite type of bow?

My favourite type of bow is recurve bow.

What is your most memorable moment (in your career)?

My most memorable moment is when we won the gold medal at the Para-Olympic Games held in Beijing.

Classifications

The entire world is involved in the Paralympic Movement – from the athletes to the funding organisations, and all the sports and nations come together to pull of a once every 4 years sports extravaganza that has millions of viewers.The global not-for-profit organisation has as its aim to “enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the worlds.”

The Paralympic Movement is one that people still don’t fully understand. People think that the paralympics is about disabled athletes, or competing with disabilities. This misconception is why the classification system exists. The classification system for Para Sport. It is about providing equitable competition, and making it fair to everyone. But how is that possible, you may ask? The classification for Para Sport is clinically-based. So, if you have a sickness, injury, or a disability that any medical professional can prove, you are classified in Para Sport. Anyone can apply to be classed in Para Sport, but the first step is to try and find something that you think you will have a disability in.

Open

Paralympic archery athletes may have an obvious physical disadvantage, but that doesn’t stop them from achieving incredible things. Neither does it stop anyone else with a disability from taking up the sport. Paralympic archery is open to anyone with any kind of disability.

Although most archers start in the sport enjoying the challenge, many Paralympic archers find a new life-long passion. Not only is the sport excellent physical therapy, it also develops focus, concentration, work ethic, and a sense of accomplishment.

Archery is also a fine example of overcoming a personal challenge. Some Paralympic archers discovered their disability later in life and had serious doubts about their ability to become an athlete.

These Paralympic athletes have to overcome some serious challenges to stay on top of any team or to win. Their stories are not only inspirational to the world of paralympic archery, but they are also great examples that will encourage everyone to stay at it no matter how hard it seems to be and how slow the results are.

Wheelchair 1 (W1)

The following list shows the IPC Classification System currently in effect.

Any athlete who is paralyzed from the chest down, regardless of the level of their disability, is classified as a W1 Paralympian or Para archer.

The test used to determine this classification is a medical evaluation which takes into account disabilities that may occur anywhere from the arms to the legs. The classification process is very strict, and very few athletes will meet the requirements for this classification. The classification is helpful to the adaptive equipment manufacturer to create a shorter bow that is best suited for a particular athlete.

In some cases, classification can be a controversial subject, especially when the athlete is close to being classified as a lower class, but does not quite meet the requirements. Occasionally, the athlete will argue that the sport is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one.

Archery was one of the events at the inaugural Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960. Along with athletics, swimming, and equestrian, it is one of the four events that has been on every Paralympic program. Archery makes up one of the seven shooting sports contested at the Games.

Wheelchair 2 (W2)

Many people who have spinal-cord injuries are still able to use their arms, as well as their shoulders, and torso; a condition known as paraplegia.

A standing archer has a distinct advantage over an archer who uses a wheelchair for stability. Standing archers can build up strength and focus on their form. If you are a paraplegic archer with good upper-arm strength, then a wheelchair for an archer may be of little use.

One thing to ask yourself is whether or not, when you shoot, you are able to maintain the same form as you do when standing. You should be able to maintain the same target line no matter what. If you are unable to shoot in that position regularly, then buying a wheelchair for archers is not in your best interest.

Wheelchair archers should focus on shooting bow with arms only, and consider a recurve or compound with a rigid limb if possible. The more rigid the limb, the easier it will be to control.

Bow Draw Length:

Compound: Compound bow draw length is less important for a wheelchair archer. You can shoot a 70-pound draw bow with ease. Or you can shoot a 55-pound draw bow, which is more manageable and suitable for long shooting sessions.

Visually Impaired (V1, V2, V3)

The classifications in this class are V1, V2, and V3. The IPC classes have levels, from A to F, with V1 being the highest level and F being the lowest. All vision categories under V1 are eligible to participate.

The first two categories V1 and V2 are defined by field of vision: a V1 competitor may have a visual field up to 20 degrees; a V2 competitor may have a visual field between 21 and 50 degrees. Vision is tested using a Maddox rod. No shooting glasses or lenses are allowed.

The disadvantage of being a V1 is the smaller field of vision, which reduces the amount of area the archer has available to see the arrows fly. Factors that affect this are age of the competitor and natural narrowing of the field of vision. Having a visual field of less than 20 degrees and nystagmus present in the eye are not allowed in this class.

· Women: F = Unlimited

· Men: F = Unlimited

V3 competitors may have any vision, but must wear an ordinary blindfold when shooting.

Deeply Impaired Lifelong/Developmental Coordination Disorder (D/LCD)

As with V1 and V2, V3 archers are also eligible to participate. This classification is for people with a vision impairment or visual field loss that cannot be corrected by wearing shooting glasses or contact lenses.

Other Rules

An International Paralympic Committee (IPC) representative must be present at all IPC Mixed Championships to ensure compliance with their rules.

Bows must be gender-neutral for para events, except for compound bows and one-handed bows, where gender classification is based on length measurements.

Archers may use calipers, a string-encompassing device used to assess the bow’s “down-string-to-nock fit,” hand protection and bow guards, and hand pull tab grips.

Archers may use the back side as a shooting side, but the side of the pull tab must face forward while shooting.

In compound wheelchair archery, most scoring is done from 10 meters, though there is a standing/walking category. Archery Canada’s website (teaminmotion.ca) has a complete schedule for disciplines, equipments and distances.

The Target

Every archer wants to hit the bullseye. You can’t do that if your sight, arrow rest, or release aid aren’t working together.

Seeing the Target

Before you can aim for the bullseye, you need to see the entire target face. You are shooting at 20 meters with archery class. The target face is 50 centimetres wide and 63 centimetres high. That’s about 20 centimetres bigger than a bulls-eye.

Getting the Perfect Spot on the Target Face

The target face is divided into 10 equal rectangles. Your centre aim point can be anywhere in the middle or you can choose a corner. Just find the perfect spot for your bow.

Three Arrows and You’re Out

You shoot a total of three arrows at a time. If you hit the line of the target face or the inside of the target, you’ll be taken out. Points for those arrows are zero. There are no do-overs.

Ideas for better scores.

The Rounds

Archery is first and foremost a sport, an outdoor activity, an individual challenge, a competition and a form of recreation. Two tournaments will be held at the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. Each tournament will be made up of a ranking round and one elimination round.

In the ranking round, the athletes will shoot at a target face that has a total of 72 gold, silver and bronze points ringed around the edge. The outer 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 32, 35, 37, 40, 45, 50, 55, 70, 85, 100, and 110 ring points will be gold, while the remaining ones will be bronze. Within the 28-point zone in the center of the target face, the closer to the bulls-eye, the higher the point value. An arrow that lands in the gold 115-point ring is worth seven points, while landing in the bronze 100-point ring is worth two points.

During the ranking round, all of the archers shoot at the same time under the same conditions in a group of 64 archers. The top 16 archers from the ranking round will advance to one of the elimination rounds.

Top Para Archery Players

Paralympic archers are drawn from players all over the world. To be elite in this field demands incredible commitment, and the US team, including Inge Bade has some of the most talented archers on the planet.

The Summer Paralympics started in London 2012, being one of five sports open to both para and able-bodied archers, while Paralympic archery is an option within the sport of Para sport archery. While the normal component of archery has its set of rules, Paralympic archery is unique. The rules are based on what an archer needs to be able to do to be successful, as those in the field cross the line from able-bodied performances and expectations.

Wheelchair users have apparatuses that serve as a bow, while those with severe upper body mobility limitations use pull-tubes. For those who have impairments in both limbs, a combination of these devices might be used.

Specialist Equipment

If you are not going to use your shooting arm, there are different styles of shooting aids, you can use;.

Long-sleeved back tab (luggage strap). You will need one of these for each shooting arm. It protects your shooting arm from the release aid and eliminates any extra movements.

Retractor. This is a rubber band or strap that acts as your Release aid should you need one. It attaches to the cocking mechanism, which does not have to be re-set resulting in quicker more efficient shooting. The draw length for a Para- archer will be different to that of an Open archer. Spare Draw Lengths are available.

Release aid. A release aid is just that. It holds on to the bow string which greatly reduces the stress on your fingers and hand, and makes shooting much easier.

No-toe tab. This lets your toe pull the tab without the traditional “L” style foot plate that para archers are required to use. These are optional and not all bow companies have these.

Spectator chair. These are bigger, more comfortable and easier to get up from than your normal shooting chair.

Mouth Tabs

There are two types of mouth tabs: loose and tight. Loose mouth tabs can move when you put on the lip guard … that means your cup is too big for your mouth.

When fitting a mouthguard, first try it on to see if it fits your face comfortably and stays in place.

Loose mouth tabs can cause a poor fit and often won’t protect your lips from the pressure points on your finger.

Secondly, the ligature should hold the mouthguard. If your lip guard moves from the pressure points on your finger, try a tighter lip guard. If your mouth guard is still loose on your lip, try a softer mouth guard. The softer the mouth guard, the more likely it is that it will move on your lip.

You don’t want your mouthguard to move on your finger, or it won’t create a proper seal around your mouth when you’re shooting. If you can slide the guard from your index finger to your middle finger, it means it’s either too big or soft. If it’s bigger than your mouth, it will move all around. If it’s too soft, it will move.

Release Braces

Male compound athletes need a strong upper body. Think about what the muscles of a pro develop into when we are younger; arms look like long, powerful springs. Kids look like men at eight years old. It is much harder to develop and maintain this overall strength with the release brace on so the number one task for the release brace is to get it off the athlete as soon as possible.

Fortunately, we have a lot of flexibility when it comes to release. This flexibility comes about because we must draw as straight back as possible in order to make the arrows travel optimally. This means that we cannot adhere to the “same height, same distance” approach that is often advocated for youngsters.

As soon as an archer can maintain the correct backswing for activation without a brace, they should start to shorten the length of their brace accordingly (a 2-3 inch brace generally works better than a longer one) and “wait” before they remove the brace completely.

When an archer is able to set up properly without a release aid they should delay the release aid removal process as long as possible as some may not achieve this for several years. The length of time and number of years can vary but this will make more sense when we get to the site preparation section.

Straps

Do you know what it means to have a release in sports?

In archery, release is the ability of an archer's grip (usually, the bowstring) to allow the arrow to be taken from the string at full draw. It is a process that is done when the archer is ready to shoot the arrow, pressing the release button which then allows the arrow to be shot.

Release is important in archery because taking the arrow from the string at full draw is considered a violation of the National Archery Association's rules, unless due to equipment failure.

With that in mind, how do you do your releases if you have arthritic hands and fingers?

For people who have this problem, adjustable release pliers can help. Itis the most suitable tool if you are an archer who lives with arthritis, weak grips or any other problem that may cause you to have problems with your hand and finger strength.

Also, these pliers are suitable for people who easily strum their fingers, often causing blisters.

Upcoming Events

There is a wide range of events and competition in Para archery and Paralympic Archery. For a complete listing of events, please click here.

Para archery is one of the most inclusive Paralympic sports, with male and female athletes competing in individual and mixed pairs events. The new Opening Ceremony for Paralympic Archery at Rio 2016 is a great example of this. Both male and female athletes were at the center of the ceremony, supported by their physiotherapists, team mates and spectators. The Opening Ceremony is a culmination of a decade of hard work to bring archery out of the shadows and into a bright spotlight.

Competitive rounds of Para archery are contested over 72¡ and 90¡ target faces, with each round consisting of 36 arrows and shot over six ends for a total of 216 arrows per match. The addition of a mix team event has opened up the opportunity for athletes with a differing degree of impairment to compete in para archery. In a mixed pairs competition the international classification system determines which athlete shoots first and which shoots second. The order of shooting may often change, depending on the classification. For more information, please click here.

Getting Started

Para archery, or para-archery, refers to the sport of archery for athletes and competitors with disabilities.

The United States Paralympic Committee defines para-archery as a standing sport open to athletes with a physical impairment in the lower part of the body.

Like any sport, para-archery comes with a lot of rules, regulations, and some specific gear.

It also comes with a lot of benefits, such as promoting physical activity, sportsmanship, and group involvement.

How to Make the Cut

Any archer who meets the specific rules and regulations can have open entry to classification to compete in the Paralympic Games.

Athletes should meet International Archery Federation (IAF) standards to be deemed eligible for para-archery.

Competitors with more severe disabilities may receive a permanent exemption to use a variety of equipment.

Referees are also on hand during the competition to ensure athletes with disabilities are adhering to the IAF standards.

What It Takes to Win

Like any sport, para-archery offers several events.

Competitors can compete in:

Recurve events: athletes use a bow that is shorter than the typical full-size or generally used in target archery