Tokyo, Aug 31 (AFP): “Armless archer” Matt Stutzman said he would not be giving up on his quest for an elusive Paralympics gold medal after being knocked out in the last 16 for the second Games in a row on Tuesday.
“I’m not quitting,” said the London 2012 silver medallist after losing 143-137 to Slovakia’s Marcel Pavlik in the men’s individual compound open archery category.
“I’m going to be back in Paris (2024) and my ultimate goal is to represent the United States in LA (2028), that will be my last Games,” added American Stutzman, who also fell at the same stage in Rio five years ago.
The 2015 world champion, who was born with no arms and holds the bow with his foot, has an @ArmlessArcher Twitter handle where his profile declares proudly “I do everything with my feet”.
But the usually ebullient Stutzman cut a bitterly disappointed figure after a second successive early exit at the Paralympics and one of his “worst scores in five years”.
The American is one of the world’s most-recognised Paralympians after being featured in the acclaimed 2020 documentary “Rising Phoenix” alongside eight other athletes.
Unusually for someone who has handled his growing fame with grace, confidence and a great sense of humour, he confessed that it was nerves that had got the better of him at the Yumenoshima Archery Park.
“Everything felt good in practice but I let the adrenaline get to me,” said the 38-year-old.
“That was not my game plan. My game plan was good coming into it but obviously there was an unknown factor that I hadn’t prepared for and it got me this time,” added Stutzman.
‘I felt like crap’
“My bow just doesn’t stop moving. I can’t calm it down, I can’t control it, it was just a weird control thing,” he said.
“I felt like crap. That’s the polite way to say it. That was one of my worst scores I’ve shot in probably five years.”
China’s He Zihao, who set a new Paralympics record score of 148 in his quarter-final, won the gold with a 147-143 victory over Iran’s Ramezan Biabani.
But Stutzman’s conqueror, Pavlik, missed out on a medal when he was beaten 144-142 by An Xinliang of China in the bronze match.
Stutzman has won just about every major title in archery, and even holds a world record for the longest accurate shot, but topping the Paralympics podium has remained tantalisingly out of reach.
“It seems like I’ve won gold at every single tournament in the world that I’ve been to except here (the Paralympics). I’ve got two more chances at it,” he said.
“I gave it 100 percent but I just wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was going to be,” he admitted with customary honesty.
“The way my bow was moving I couldn’t settle it and that’s just something I need to practise. When I get under pressure, it moves a lot. I need to figure that out.
“I will use this to fuel myself, because the next Paralympic Games is in three years and I am going to come back stronger.