Armless archer Matt Stutzman hits the bull's eye when it comes to figuring out adversity

Anywhere you turn at the Endeavor Games — a multi-sport event for athletes with all sorts of physical disabilities — you find inspirational stories. None is more inspiring than Stutzman's.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 18, 2014 at 9:28 am •  Published: June 7, 2013

photo - Matt Stutzman, known as the Armless Archer uses his feet to take aim as he prepares to take part in the archery event during the Endeavor Games at the University of Central Oklahoma on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Edmond, Okla.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Matt Stutzman, known as the Armless Archer uses his feet to take aim as he prepares to take part in the archery event during the Endeavor Games at the University of Central Oklahoma on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Edmond, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

EDMOND — Matt Stutzman places the arrow in his bow and raises the bow from the ground. He pushes the bow away from his body, stares down the bull's eye, then releases the arrow.

When it pierces the center of the target, Stutzman doesn't throw his arms in the air in celebration.

He has no arms.

Stutzman is known as the Armless Archer, and he is the reigning Paralympic silver medalist in compound bow. Friday at the Endeavor Games in Edmond, he was in second place. The final round of shooting is Saturday.

Anywhere you turn at the Endeavor Games — a multi-sport event for athletes with all sorts of physical disabilities — you find inspirational stories.

None is more inspiring than Stutzman's.

Born without arms, Matt's parents put him up for adoption when he was four months old. Nine months later, Leon and Jean Stutzman walked into a nursery where Matt was with about 20 other children.

“I'm the only one with no arms,” Matt said. “And they picked me.”

He smiled.

“On their resume, they said they wanted no one with a mental disability or a physical disability just because they didn't know how they were going to be able to handle it. But yet, they still got me.”

Stutzman, who grew up in rural Iowa, got his first bow and arrow when he was in high school, but it got stolen a few months later. He never had a chance to figure out how he could shoot it, and with eight children in the house, his parents didn't have the money to buy him another one.

About three years ago, Stutzman bought himself a bow. He wanted to use it to hunt, not only because many men in his family do but also because his wife and three boys needed the food.

“Finding jobs in the town I was in was pretty hard for me,” Stutzman said matter of factly. “If I shot a deer, that would last us most of the winter.”

Stutzman worked for about two months figuring out how to shoot.

He has a belt that goes around his chest. A mechanical release is on a loop on the belt, and it hooks around his right shoulder.

Using his teeth, he puts the arrow into the mechanical release.

Then with the bow wedged between the big toe and second toe on his right foot, he straightens his leg to pull the bow taught. The mechanical release sits just underneath his jaw.

Once he looks down the sight at his target and steadies the bow against his mouth, he moves his jaw ever so slightly. Pressure equal to that of a mouse click sets off the mechanical release.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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