Jeff Fabry is the first gold medalist for USA Archery in the Olympic or Paralympic Games since 1996.
London’s Royal Artillery Barracks was the scene of one of the most dramatic contests of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. After shattering his bow in the semifinals on Sept. 3, 2012, U.S. archer Jeff Fabry prevailed to make it to the gold medal match on the same day.
And he won, becoming the first U.S. archer to win a Paralympic Games gold since 1984. In a later match in the men's compound – open, Matt Stutzman, known as the “Inspirational Archer”, won the silver medal. Eric Bennett was fourth in the men’s individual recurve – standing.
“On the follow-through [from the last shot of second set] the bow slipped out of my hand. As soon as the cam [the pulley device] hit the ground, the strings went,” Fabry explained. It was then that a semifinal win and an appearance in the gold medal match seemed unlikely.
Archery matches consist of up to five sets in which archers shoot three arrows each. The archer who wins the set receives two points. If the archers tie, each receives one point. First archer with six points wins.
In the semifinal match of the men's compound W1 against Norbert Murphy of Canada, Fabry was seemingly in control of the set 3-1. He won the first set handily and dramatically shot a 10 point bulls-eye on the final shot of the second set to tie. On that final shot, Fabry’s bow slipped and crashed to the ground.
“I normally do have a second bow and I always bring it with me,” he said. “But I had left it in the tent and I didn't know if they (the officials) were going to give me the time.”
With a trip to the gold medal match on the line, Fabry was without a functional bow. After conferencing with his coach, Fabry frantically made his way back to the practice facility to retrieve his backup bow.
In the meantime, the match went on without him. Murphy scored an eight on his first shot.
No sign of Fabry.
His shot clock ran down to zero and he was awarded no points.
Murphy aimed and fired off his second shot. Once again, eight points. Another zero for Fabry who was still nowhere to be found when his 20 second shot timer expired again.
Murphy took his third and final shot of the set and awaited Fabry’s return. Fabry made it back to the shooting line just as the horn sounded to end of his third turn. Not only was he was unable to make a shot in the third round, he was not even able to attempt one.
Fabry started off the fourth round right where he left off before the bow woes. He won the round 27-26 and finished off the eventual London 2012 Paralympic Games bronze medalist Murphy in the fourth round with a score of 27-22.
Not a bad win for someone who missed an entire round.
"That's about as much excitement as I want to have,” he said. “I'm just happy to get through that match."
In the gold medal match, Fabry faced off against the defending gold medalist from the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, David Drahoninsky of the Czech Republic. After winning the first set by shooting three 10s for a score of 30-29, Fabry dropped the second set 29-26.
Fabry bounced back and secured the gold medal by winning the fourth and fifth sets, both by scores of 29-27. “We came here and did hard work and got the job finished,” Fabry said.
It is the first gold medal for USA Archery in the Olympic or Paralympic Games since 1996.
“I have achieved another step on the archery platform,” said Fabry, who won bronze at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. “Winning gold has taken me three Games so I'm proud.”
Stutzman was able to avoid disaster in his semifinal match in the men's compound open against Guille Rodriguez Gonzalez of Spain but the match was not without drama. Stutzman staged two comebacks in the match to force a fifth and final set.
After the Spaniard won the first set, Stutzman evened things out by winning the second. Rodriguez Gonzalez won the third set and Stutzman countered with a magnificent fourth set victory. In the fifth and final set, Stutzman was perfect, shooting three 10 point arrows that set up a gold medal match against Jere Forsberg of Finland.
"My goal was to inspire somebody, even if it was just one person, with my positive attitude,” Stutzman said. “Never say never. If I can do this, with no arms, anything is possible. I have enjoyed every minute of it. It makes me want to try harder in 2016."
In that final, Forsberg was not going to be denied. He began the match by shooting five straight 10 point arrows. After losing the first two sets, Stutzman put up a fight, tying the third and winning fourth sets.
That comeback set up a crucial fifth set. After both archers started the set shooting two 10s, Stutzman’s third arrow landed dead center of the target for ten points. Forsberg needed to shoot a 10 to win gold on his final shot and calmly did so.
"I hope that America is proud of me as well as Jeff,” Stutzman said.
Other action from Sept. 3, 2012:
To commemorate the one year anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, USParalympics.org will look back on the best performances of the Games through Sept. 9.