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British, U.S. Archers Bag Bullseyes at DoD Warrior Games

WEST POINT, N.Y., June 22, 2016 — British archers commanded the podium with team and individual wins at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games archery finals at the U.S. Military Academy here June 17.

British Royal Air Force veteran Senior Aircraftman Keith Roberson, Army Sgt. Gavin Watson and Army veteran Lance Cpl. Mark Martin-Davy earned gold, silver and bronze, respectively, in the individual recurve competition, while British Army 1st Lt. Michael Matthews stepped away with gold in the individual compound event, leaving silver and bronze to British Royal Air Force Master Sgt. Zarah Hartsock and British Royal Navy veteran Petty Officer 2nd Class Roel Espino, respectively.

British, U.S. Air Force Archers Get Goldbull

The U.S. Air Force team outshot the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps for gold in the compound team competition, but the U.K. shined again in the recurve team finals, nosing past second and third place teams from the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Southern Command.

“You dream about doing this well, but to hold it together and keep your nerves calm was just a dream come true,” Roberson said.

Also an Invictus 2014 athlete, Roberson said he tried to practice as much as he could throughout the year, with particular emphasis on strong shots without dropping his bow arm or composure.

The medalist credits his success to exchanging jitters and nerves for the comfort of routine as prescribed by his coach of over a year.

“I tried to just forget about it and go through the routine my coaches always told me to do: making sure my hand’s in the right position, that the string is in my fingers properly, making sure it feels good on the back and just coming through the shot cleanly,” Roberson explained. “If there’s a bad shot, forget it, move on.”

Four categories comprise the event: individual compound open, individual recurve open, team compound and team recurve. The athletes competed in different classification categories based on functional abilities, including impaired muscle power and range of movement, limb deficiency and visual impairment -- a first at this year’s Warrior Games.

Jesse White, archery venue manager, said he and competition officials researched and finessed the Warrior Games’ visually impaired category, which he said is relatively new even in the Paralympic Games.

“We built the stands that you see [the athletes] use; they’re all hand-built by our staff here,” White said. “It’s just a great thing to show people that regardless of what your disability is, we can figure it out and we can make it work.”

Visual Impaired Archers Compete

Some of the archers competing in the visual-impaired category are partially blind, while others are completely blind. Because of the varying degrees of sightedness, regulations call for blindfolding each competitor in the category, White explained.

White said it’s difficult to train visually impaired participants to rely on anything other than sight to put arrows on target.

“We use a lot of family members, because it’s a voice that they can pick out in a crowd, somebody they’re very used to,” he said. “Once the athletes get used to it, it gets a lot easier, but in the very beginning it’s super tough.”

Archery competitions for those with physical impairments date back to at least 1948, and archery was one of the sports at the first Paralympic games, held in Rome in 1960.

Roberson noted that even the individual medals truly belong to the team in general. “We all pull each other along and we’ve all got each other ‘til the end, going for the gold,” he said.

He even had a “cheeky” message for the other teams. “You’ve been so nice to us and kind -- thank you for letting us come to your country … I’m sorry we beat ya!”

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)
Distribution channels: Military