Mind Over Matter: U.S. Paralympic
Team Trials Mind Over Matter: U.S. Paralympic Team Trials

An arrow flies when an archer draws his bow and releases: you know this, right? Kinetic energy propels the arrow toward its target. Read that sentence and I’ll bet you visualize this archer: one hand grips the bow, while the other draws the string.

Except, not always.

In the case of Matt Stutzman, an archer born without arms, his feet do the work. Stutzman, an elite U.S. archer who competes on a global stage, is a Paralympic silver medalist who proves that things aren’t always what they seem.

Courage and determination drive athlete performance. Always. And that’s no less evident than among Paralympians and Paralympic hopefuls. The world is taking notice, too. Earlier this summer, Paralympic gold medalist Jeff Fabry was nominated for an ESPY Award in the “Best Male Athlete With a Disability” category. His name was mentioned alongside the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Lebron James.

Teresa Iaconi, press officer for USA Archery, was a photographer and observer at last year’s U.S. Paralympic Team Trials. Here, she tells the story of this moment, leading up to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games where archery reached a popularity peak verified by viewer ratings and unprecedented social buzz.

U.S. Paralympic Team Trials 1

Teresa Iaconi   

The U.S. Paralympic Team Trials were held in late April 2012 in Chula Vista, California. Hosted at the Olympic Training Center, the Trials promised fantastic weather that turned out to be a bit of a letdown – cool temps and overcast skies would eventually give way to partial sun and gusting winds that blow across the mountains from Mexico.

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Teresa Iaconi   

On the first day, there was open, unofficial practice; these photos were shot on a chilly morning as we waited for the clouds to burn off. I was nervous about taking pictures of the Paralympic hopefuls, as I’d been told that some of the athletes weren’t “media friendly” – so I took refuge behind my lens and set my camera to monochrome, hoping good photos would help this press officer build a bridge with the team.

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Teresa Iaconi   

Matt Stutzman, known as the “Inspirational Archer,” aims at his target by holding the bow with his foot. Matt would eventually go on to make the U.S. Paralympic Team and earn a silver medal in London, despite only having shot a bow for three years.

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Teresa Iaconi   

Jerry Shields is a U.S. Army veteran and one of the kindest souls on an archery field, quick with a smile and always putting those around him at ease. Jerry was successful in these Team Trials and went on to compete in London, adding to a strong resume that includes a World Championships silver medal.

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Teresa Iaconi   

Michael Lukow, just 25 years old when this photo was taken, missed the 2012 Paralympic Team, but is an accomplished archery athlete despite being new to the sport. Part of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, Lukow is now refocused on the 2013 World Archery Para Championships; he’ll compete in Bangkok, Thailand for Team USA later this year.

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Teresa Iaconi

When I was new to shooting photos at archery tournaments and scared to get too close with my camera, Chuck Lear would motion me over and make me welcome. Quick with a hug and always ready to talk archery, Chuck is a two-time Paralympian and three-time World Championships team member.

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Teresa Iaconi

There’s a peculiar atmosphere at Team Trials events: barely-contained elation with tears of frustration and a sense of desperation. Events like this can be difficult for those who have trained for four years, only to just miss making the team. Lee Ford-Faherty, right, went on to compete at London 2012; D’Arce Hess, left, refocused her energies after the London 2012 Trials, and has qualified for the upcoming World Championships – this time with a compound bow.

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