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Paralympic Spotlight: Eric Bennett, Part 3

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We recently spoke with Eric Bennett, para-archer for Team USA, ahead of the 2024 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. In this third installment of a four-part series, Bennett discusses how he got to the Olympic level, the other tournaments he participates in, and how he improves his form.

 

 

 

A360: What steps would you say, specifically, do you think got you to the Olympic level?

EB: I think that’s a great question. I feel like I have an answer that is aimed more towards the beginners, but even those that are trying to be competitive at the highest level. For me, the thing that I think really got me where I’m at now is in my early years especially, and even now, I try and shoot as many competitive arrows as I can, arrows that count for something. That means local tournaments, leagues, there’s always going to be the national tournaments. I know people that go to all the USAT events, but then that might be the only thing they shoot throughout the year and for me, I want a chance to have every arrow I shoot count for something.

I was standing on the line with my friends at our league and even if we’re in archery camp, USAT camp or something like that out of Chula Vista, I want to be trying to show that I can shoot the best and compete the best in every everything I do. That’s, I think, what has gotten me where I am: I’m a competitive person. I try to find as many opportunities as I can to compete, even if I’m getting crushed. During some of those early years, I’m a one-armed guy that’s learning how to shoot a bow and no one else can really help me, so I’m doing the best I can and I but I’m shooting against two-armed people and trying to compete in everything I can and routinely would get beat, but that just drove me to keep getting better and better and better. Finding ways to shoot competitive arrows is probably the best advice I can give you if you want to be competitive.

A360: Do you only practice traditional target archery or do you also practice other formats like NFAA, 3D, and others?

EB: I do honestly a lot of things. When I first got started, I was shooting pretty much everything I could, including 3D, NFAA, indoor, Vegas, outdoor. The only thing I really haven’t done a ton of, and I’m going to change that after Paris, is I haven’t done a lot of actual field tournaments. I’ve done just about every discipline and I’ve shot with my compound with a mouth tab, I’ve shot my compound with a release, I’ve shot my recurve with a release. I currently shoot my target recurve with a mouth tab. Last season I shot indoor barebow. I’ve done a little bit of everything and recurve, Olympic recurve, has been my bread and butter in terms of international competition and success, but I even during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and my first World Championships, I shot a compound. So, I’ve done a little bit of everything.

 

A360: How would you say you’ve improved your form in various ways over the years?

 

EB: Because I’ve shot so many different disciplines, I’ve honestly got multiple ways of doing some of the things that I do, but I also think shooting those different disciplines has helped me perfect different types of forms for each of the disciplines. The way I shoot my recurve is going to be a little bit different than the way I shoot my compound, but ultimately, identifying what works for me and writing those things down and then following that routine and putting in the quantity of arrows and making sure that they’re quality arrows, but putting in the quantity to perfect those muscle memory movements. That, for me, includes a lot of up-close, blank bale, aiming drills, shooting for score up-close to build confidence. Also, routinely on a regular schedule, scoring outdoors and keeping track and charting that information. Ultimately, though, I think the way you perfect your form is to have a plan, know that what you’re doing is the right way, whether that’s with a coach or not and then putting in those arrows to cement that muscle memory.

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for Part 4, publishing on June 27. Bennett will share how he prepares for the Games, how he practices visualization, and what he’s most excited to see at the Games. If you missed Part 2, you find that: here.

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

 

 

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