It was a thrilling year for the Paralympic Movement in the United States and around the globe. Records were broken and legacies were made. From Dec. 18-30, USParalympics.org will unveil the Top 13 moments of 2013 for U.S. Paralympics in chronological order.
In what’s better known as an individual sport, three U.S. women teamed up to reach the medal stand at the 2013 World Para-Archery Championships in Bangkok, Thailand.
In the women’s compound open competition, the U.S. team of Martha Chavez (Lemoore, Calif.), D’Arce Hess (Davis, Calif.) and Ashlee Sheppard (San Francisco, Calif.) started strong and ultimately reached the gold-medal competition against defending champions the Russian Federation.
Though all three members of the medal-winning team had some experience competing on the international stage, Team USA hadn’t fielded a women’s compound open team in years – much less earned a medal in the event.
“All of (the women) had been to at least one world championship event, but we had never participated in a team event because we never had enough people for a team,” said head coach Randi Smith. “I knew they were all strong shooters, so I hoped they could keep it all together to shoot well – and they did.”
In an interview just before heading to Thailand, Sheppard had discussed her teammates’ talent and her goals for the world championship.
“I think the three compound women who are going, we are all really close in shooting skills,” Sheppard had said. “So I’m hoping that the three of us will continue to push each other to even better scores.”
Her prediction couldn’t have been more accurate.
Team USA kept pace with the powerhouse Russians for most of the gold-medal round, narrowly missing gold with a low third set and a miss in the final three arrows.
Smith said she was impressed with the camaraderie of the team in a sport usually focused on individual performance.
“Their strength was probably their ability to communicate and act like a team and actually be a team,” Smith said. “I think there is a lot of team chemistry. This particular team seemed to work together pretty well – the whole team, not just the women’s compound open team. And I think the fact that the rest of the team was behind them worked, too.”
Team USA also saw a podium performance at the world championship on the men’s side, with Paralympic champion Jeff Fabry (Tulare, Calif.) taking silver in the compound men W1 competition.
The ultimate goal for most members of the USA Para-Archery Team is to compete for the U.S. at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – though they may not be thinking that far ahead just yet.
“It’s hard for me to think about Rio realistically,” Sheppard said. “But if everything fell into place, I would absolutely make that a goal.”
And in Smith’s opinion, the women’s compound open team may not have even reached its peak performance yet.
“I don’t want to put any limits on them. I think they can keep it going and surprise us all,” Smith said. “They’re taking it one day at a time with Rio being in the back of their minds. They know Rio’s coming up, but the way to get there is one step at a time.”