Armless Archer Matt Stutzman Describes How He Shoots A Bow — And Wins Medals : The Two-Way American Paralympian Matt Stutzman won the silver medal in archery this week, a feat he accomplished despite being born without arms. In the men's compound open final, he was narrowly beaten by Finland's Jere Forsberg, who has the use of both arms.

Armless Archer Matt Stutzman Describes How He Shoots A Bow — And Wins Medals

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At the Paralympic Games in London, 29-year-old Matt Stutzman of Fairfield, Iowa, won a silver medal in archery. And here's the remarkable thing: Stutzman has no arms. That's right. He medaled in archery without arms, competing against athletes who do have them. And he joins me from London to explain how he does it. Matt Stutzman, congratulations. That's great.

MATT STUTZMAN: Thank you. And also thank you for having me.

BLOCK: You bet. Well, I've been watching videos of you shooting, and I wonder if you can explain the mechanics of how you do this. You have a harness around your torso, right?

STUTZMAN: Yes. I have a belt, basically, from a tree stand safety harness, and it goes, basically, around my chest. And then there is a release or a mechanical aid that goes over my right shoulder. If you are an archer, I can put it on your wrists, and you could use that release to shoot your own bow.

BLOCK: Aha. And how are you picking up the arrow? How are you getting them into the bow?

STUTZMAN: So I use my left foot to pick up the arrows from the ground or pull them out of the quiver, and then I use while I'm holding the arrow in my left foot, I kind of guide it onto the bow with my right foot as well. It's kind of like a two-footed job to put an arrow on the bow.

BLOCK: And it looks like you're stretching out the tension in your bow as you extend your leg, right?

STUTZMAN: Yes. That is correct. So when I - after I get the arrow onto the string, I kind of cross my legs, almost gentleman-style, as you can say it. And what that allows me to do is it brings the string close enough that I can actually kind of bend down and hook my release aid, which is on the right shoulder, onto the string. So once I do that, then I sit up, and then I just push my right foot away from my chest.

BLOCK: And then how do you release the arrow?

STUTZMAN: The release aid has a trigger, almost kind of like a gun of some sort. And that actually goes underneath my right jaw. So once I get anchored, I just kind of move my jaw slightly backwards. That's all the pressure it takes for me to make the bow shoot.

BLOCK: How did you start doing archery in the first place, and how did you figure out how to do it without arms?

STUTZMAN: I grew up always looking for challenges, and I'm the kind of guy who sees a challenge, and I have to go after it. And so when I was younger, my dad and my brother, they would, you know, they would go out hunting with their bows. And I was like, that's not fair. You know, I want to do that.


STUTZMAN: And so I got myself a bow. I worked a deal with my dad, and he purchased me a bow. And I did odd jobs around the farm to pay for that bow, and then I essentially had to teach myself how to shoot. You know, great example, the guy is holding the bow with his right arm. So I would hold out the bow with my right foot, and I knew in my head I would think that my foot was his arm, and I would just try to mimic him exactly.

BLOCK: Matt, I was reading a little bit about you. You were born without arms. You're adopted when you were 13 months old, and your mom says they never modified the house for you because, as she put it, the world outside has no modifications.

STUTZMAN: Yeah. It was amazing because, of course, as parents, you always want to help your kid out. Even with my boy, I always want to help him out all the time. But I can see it would be especially hard for them, you know, adopting a child that has no arms and struggles a lot to just figure out how to live life and always trying to want to help me. So they've always taught me to try to figure it out on my own first and really give it 100 percent. And even if I couldn't figure it out, then they would help me, but it wouldn't be just like let me do it for you.

It was, OK, let's sit down together and now let's put our both foreheads together and try to figure out how to overcome what you have to do. And it worked out great because, you know, now my house is not modified at all. My car is a regular car. There's no modifications to it at all.

BLOCK: Driving, surely, with your feet.

STUTZMAN: Yes. I use my left foot for the gas and brake, and my right foot for the steering wheel.

BLOCK: That's - it's a remarkable thing to think about, but I'm sure it's not remarkable in any way for you.


BLOCK: It's just what you've always done.

STUTZMAN: It's my everyday thing. You know, I just do that every day, you know? I have a good sense of humor. So even though I have a regular car, I'm sitting in a parking lot, and a guy comes up and says, I just realized you have no arms, and I wanted to know how you started your car. And I said, well, check this out. I got a special car. It was modified just for me. And I had my foot down by the key where he couldn't see it, and I go, car on. And then I turned it, and it goes vroom.


STUTZMAN: But he didn't see my feet move at all, right? So he's thinking I've got like this supercar, like, that could start by itself. And he's like, so does your car drive by itself too? I'm like, this was a specially made car. It - you don't even have to use your hands to drive this one.


BLOCK: It gets them every time, right?

STUTZMAN: Yeah. So it's pretty funny.

BLOCK: Well, Matt Stutzman, congratulations on your medal and thanks a lot for talking to us.

STUTZMAN: No problem. Thank you very much for having me.

BLOCK: Matt Stutzman, who's armless, he won a silver medal in archery at the Paralympic Games in London. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the longest accurate shot: 230 yards.

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