Wheelchair Archery

What Is Target Archery?

Wheelchair archery competitors use a target that is a maximum of 48 inches in size with 10 concentric rings positioned 294 feet from the archer. The object for scoring is to hit the center ring or “bullseye”. The center ring score is 10 points, with the outer ring being 1 point. The closer to the center the arrow lands the higher the score.

History Of Archery

The earliest arrows date back 64,000 years to South Africa. Eventually bows replaced atlatl as the predominant means to launch sharp projectiles on all continents except Australia.

Civilizations had large numbers of archers in their armies. Archery was an important military and hunting skill before gunpowder.

American Revival Of Archery

After the American Civil War, two Confederate veterans, Will and Maurice Thompson, revived archery in America. Thomas Williams (a former slave) and the two brothers lived in the wild in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. As ex-Confederate soldiers they were not allowed to own guns. They needed other ways to hunt for food. Thomas Williams had some knowledge about the English-style Archery (using a longbow, although it is unclear where he gained this knowledge) and showed Will and Maurice. Later, Maurice wrote a book, "The Witchery of Archery", which became a best seller and people became enthused about the sport of archery.

Formation Of National Association

The National Archery Association was formed in 1879. Public interest soon subsided. It wasn't until 1911 when Ishi (the last of the Yahi Indian tribe) came out of hiding that interest was renewed. He lived the last five years at the University of California at Berkeley Anthropology Museum. His doctor, Saxton Pope, was an instructor of surgery at the medical school. Dr. Pope was interested in Ishi, his culture and archery. Ishi taught him about his culture, how to make the tools the way the Yahi did and how to hunt using a bow and arrow. Ishi died in 1916 of tuberculosis.

Dr. Pope and Arthur Young made several hunting trips and proved that archery could be used to bag large game. They hunted in Alaska and Africa and took several large game animals.

Thus it was proven that archery was effective not only for small game but large game as well, and archery did not lose public interest. Many methods that Ishi taught are still used today by primitive archers.

In the 1920s professional engineers took an interest in archery, a previously exclusive field of traditional craft experts. This led to the commercial development of new forms of bows including the modern recurve, compound and crossbow. These forms are now dominant in Western archery and the traditional bows are not as popular.

In the 1980s the skills of traditional archery have been revived by American enthusiasts and combined with the latest technology. Much can be found in the "Traditional Bowers Bible".

At the present there are wheelchair archery enthusiasts who enjoy hunting large and small game across America. These outdoorsmen are able to get to where they want to go with their special outdoor wheelchairs.

Olympic Competition

Archery and wheelchair archery is an Olympic and Paralympic sport and was represented as early as 1900 at the Paris Olympiad. Perhaps keeping up the tradition of the British skill with bow and arrow the 1908 British Olympic Games saw a Silver and Gold won by sister and brother Lotto and Wily Dod.

Competition has been around since the Stokes-Mandeville Games in England in 1948. There are both standing and wheelchair athletes who compete in men's and women's competitions. The paralympics includes singles, doubles, and team events with competition and scoring procedures identical to the Olympic games.

Wheelchair archery has been in every International Paralympic Games since Rome in 1960. It received international fame as a paralympic sport in 1992 at the Barcelona Games when Paralympian Antonio Rebollo lit the Olympic and Paralympic flames with an arrow.

Wheelchair archery competition is not only for teams or individuals but can be performed in a standing position if disabled.

The governing body for Olympic Target Archery is the Federation of International Target Archery (FITA).


ARST - Archery Standing / In standing the archers have no disbilities in the arms while the legs show some degree of loss of muscle strength, coordination and or joint mobility.

ARW1 - Archery Wheelchair 1 / This class completes from a wheelchair and the archers have limited range of movement, strength and control of their arms and poor or nonexistent control of their legs.

ARW2 - Archery Wheelchair 2 / Archers in this classification are paralyzed in the lower part of their body and complete in a wheelchair.

Sports Equipment

Paralympic athletes use a recurve bow. These bows can be made of wood, graphite, fiberglass or carbon composites. Arrows are either carbon graphite or aluminum.

Bow lengths vary in size and length. It is generally recommended that individuals in wheelchairs use a 48 inch bow.

Wheelchair archery athletes require no equipment modifications, however are allowed to position themselves at a 90 degree angle from the target and can remove the armrest to allow increased draw of the bow string.

The wheelchair archery athlete uses seat and back cushions with restrictions on thickness. In general back cushion are 5 centimeters in thickness and seat cushions to 15 centimeters. Other adaptive equipment used includes chest straps, and universal cuffs to assist in holding the bow, bow sling, amputee adapter device, and an adapted archery bow.

For more information contact the National Archery Association.

If you are looking for equipment to give you that edge, visit some of my link partners to find what you are looking for.

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