Few archers will ever know what it’s like to represent their country in international competition.
Jeff Fabry isn’t part of that crowd. He’s one of the talented few who wear a Team USA jersey. He’s won a Paralympic gold medal and multiple world championships. This summer he also won the 2017 World Para Championship.
“You stand on the podium, and you get your gold medal,” Fabry said. “But what I enjoy the most is when they play your national anthem as the flags are being raised. I’m proud knowing that I represented my country well.”
Fabry competes with a compound bow in the Paralympics, which is a competition for athletes with impairments. At age 15, Fabry lost an arm and a leg in a motorcycle accident. He was a bowhunter before then, but his injuries kept him out of the woods a long time. “For 10 years I didn’t even think about picking up a bow,” he said.
After receiving an invitation to go bowhunting, Fabry decided to try shooting again. “I remember hearing a story about a guy who shot with his teeth,” he said. “So I said: ‘You know what? Let’s try it.’”
Fabry cut up an old pair of jeans and fashioned a makeshift mouth tab from the material. A mouth tab attaches to the bowstring to help adaptive archers draw the bow with their mouth.
The first shot from his new setup was scary. “I didn’t know what was going to open,” he said. “I shot that arrow, and I was like, ‘OK. I can do this.’”
After using the denim mouth tab, Fabry experimented with different materials. “I found that a nylon dog leash works best, and that’s what I still use today,” he said.
Those experiences were enough to get him back into the sport, and he dove in deeper.
“I started working at archery shops to learn more,” Fabry said. “That got me started shooting in leagues and local tournaments. The next thing I knew, I was shooting in a national event.”
Fabry competed against able-bodied archers at those tournaments. He didn’t join the para archery team until his wife gave him a little nudge. They were watching the Sydney Games together when they saw the para archers competing.
“She goes, ‘Why aren’t you out there?” Fabry said. “I said I don’t want to shoot against the handicapped,’ and she slapped me in the back of the head. She said, ‘You’re disabled, aren’t you?’ I said yes, but … She said the only but is they’re out there proving what they can do with their ability. ‘They’re actually proving something.’ That’s what gave me the push to call up the coach.”
That moment changed Fabry’s life. “It gave me direction,” he said. “Before I didn’t have any set goals in life, and now I have a focus. It’s all about training and winning tournaments.”
Fabry’s life is all about archery. He works in the archery industry and, in his spare time, goes bowhunting and competes at the highest level. He’s showing that archery can transform lives, and offers many benefits. Anyone with any physical ability can enjoy archery.
“To me, it’s a sport without boundaries,” Fabry said. “That’s what makes it great. Anyone can shoot.”
Feeling inspired? Try archery at an archery shop. “I guarantee once you shoot that first arrow you’re going to be an archer,” Fabry said.