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Paralympic Spotlight: Eric Bennett, Part 1

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Eric Bennett recently qualified for his fifth Paralympic Games, making history as the first American para-archer to qualify for five Paralympic Games. He and the other members of the USA Archery Paralympic Team will be vying for gold in Paris from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5. We recently spoke to Bennett about the upcoming Games in Paris and he gave us some valuable insight into his journey, some tips on form and practice routines, and great advice for any archer looking to make it to the Olympic level. The full interview will be released in four parts. Check out Part 1 below to see how Bennett got his start in archery.

 

 

A360: How did you get started in archery?

EB: I got started as a kid. My dad was a bowhunter and would take me to the range. I had a little fiberglass bow and I started shooting when I was probably like 7 or 8, and then I got to go get my first like real hunting bow and go on my first hunt when I was 15. Then, later that year I was in a car accident where I lost my arm, so I actually didn’t shoot for over 10 years after that because I didn’t think that I would be able to and it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that my dad had this idea of using a bow with my feet, sideways like a crossbow. Then, I actually was able to go on my first hunt after the accident, so that was an awesome experience and that got me back in the sport. I learned about different people shooting different ways and I started using a mouth tab. So, I started first just hunting and practicing and shooting and then local tournaments and 3D tournaments and then target stuff. I started to get pretty competitive in that from about 1999 or 2000 until I learned that they were going to have compound bows in the Paralympics in 2008 for the first time. That’s when I put my target rig together and started getting ready to try and make my first Paralympic team.

 

A360: How did you find your first coach?

 

EB: That was a tricky one. I mean, it really came down to finding my first archery shop close to me that would be willing to help me in my early days. I first started with a bow that I literally held with my feet that my dad and I modified in the garage and it was awful, but we wanted to make it better. I wanted to try different things. Trying to find a shop that was willing to work with someone that shoots differently like I do was not easy. I was lucky to find a shop here in Glendale, Arizona, that’s still my shop, Corner Archery. Rhonda Crabtree, in particular, and at the time her husband, Lonnie Crabtree, took me under their wing. They helped me learn how to work on bows, fix bows, fletch arrows, and then worked with me to help me get better and figure out ways to shoot where I could improve. So, while the owners of the shop weren’t necessarily my first coaches, they were largely instrumental in helping me get on the road and heading in the right direction.

 

A360: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

 

EB: I’ve received some really good pieces of information over the years. Just recently, at the Trials, I got a piece of information that I have heard before and I’ve heard it from different coaches. Olympic gold medalist Jay Bars was standing there with me as I was trying to get ready to compete in the next stage and get ready for the next format, or whatever it was, and I was talking to him about my journey to that point and kind of some stress I was feeling etcetera and he gave me the piece of advice that that no matter what happened, no matter what the outcome of the trials or even the Games, whatever that is, that my wife and kids are still going to love me. That helped ease the pressure off because even though there was a lot of pressure for me to make this team, because I want my wife and kids to go to France and go to Paris and enjoy this and be a part of it, I also knew that no matter what happened, whatever the outcome was going to be, that they would still be there for me.

 

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for Part 2, publishing in two days on June 20. Bennett will discuss his practice routine and share advice on how beginning archers can enhance their practice sessions and stay focused on their goals.

Watch Eric Bennett and the rest of Team USA go for gold at the Paralympics starting Aug. 29.

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