Ben Thompson reacts at the World Archery Para Championships on June 8, 2019 in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.
Ben Thompson brought the surprise. Eric Bennett was all business. And world no. 1 Matt Stutzman, Team USA’s “Armless Archer,” overcame the disappointment of being shot out of the final in his best event to help Team USA archers claim a complete set of individual medals -- plus a world team title in men’s recurve -- at the World Archery Para Championships this weekend in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.
Thompson upset the field, including teammate Stutzman, for gold in the individual men’s compound event after a lopsided final with Turkey’s Murat Turan to earn his first ever world individual gold. Thompson, the 2017 world bronze medalist who has enjoyed a meteoric rise since taking up the sport in 2014, shot a personal best 695 to qualify in fifth position, then surprised top qualifier Stutzman, 144-142, in a nail-biting semifinal that pitted the Americans against each other.
In the final, Thompson kept his cool to hold Turan at bay, building a 138-135 lead before putting his final arrow through the eight, giving him a 146-135 margin of victory.
“It’s hard to black out. I knew kind of where the match was and so that last shot, instead of waiting, I got a little impatient,” he remarked afterward. Of his first solo world gold, he could only describe himself as “just numb. I’m just completely numb, it’s just an incredible feeling.”
Stutzman, the compound silver medalist from the Paralympic Games London 2012 and top qualfiier in men’s compound in Hertogenbosch, defeated India’s Rakesh Kumar 142-136 to claim the bronze. Though disappointed in the early rounds, the 36-year-old closed out his medal run with three perfectly placed arrows.
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Bennett, who teamed with Michael Lukow and Timothy Palumbo to help the recurve men’s team capture gold, shot himself into silver medal position in the individual recurve final behind Malaysia’s Suresh Selvathamby, 7-3. Bato Tsydendorzhiev of Russia rounded out the podium with bronze.
Bennett, 45, has spent the past two decades shooting for Team USA, and plans to deploy that experience in his new role as para athlete representative for World Archery, the sport’s governing body, a role he was elected to this week in the Netherlands. The top items on his agenda will be getting more attention for the sport and more medal opportunities at the Games.
“We would like to see more opportunities to win medals,” he said. “We would also like to see visually impaired archers included in the Paralympic Games. So my goals are to try to grow the sport, increase participation and represent the athletes the best I can.”
By virtue of being the top nation in the event, Thompson qualified the U.S. for an extra compound quota place to the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, giving them three quota places in the event. The Americans have also earned two spots in men’s recurve for Tokyo.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.