Louth bowman reaches last eight at World Para-Archery Champs

Vision impaired archer Stuart Rodgers performed superbly against the world’s best to claim a top-eight international finish.

Stuart in action on the range EMN-191006-122618002

The Louth And District Archery Club member Stuart Rodgers lined up at the 2019 World Para-Archery Championships (WPAC) in s’Hertogenbosch, Holland, last week.

The championships were the biggest in the event’s history with more than 300 athletes representing 52 countries.

Stuart was making his world championship debut and was at the mercy of more experienced international competitors, but his coach and mentor Rick Smith used humour to repel any attempts to put the Louth archer off his game.

Stuart and his coach/mentor Rick Smith EMN-191006-122553002

In the seeding/qualification round, the VI archers had 72 arrows in sets of six shot from 30 metres at a 60cm target face, and Stuart achieved a confidence-boosting ranking of eighth.

The elimination rounds, in a matchplay head-to-head format, followed where the Lincolnshire archer was drawn against the more experienced Australian Hazel Hockley.

Shooting five sets of three arrows, two points were awarded to the highest scorer, and one point each if scores were drawn, chasing the first to six.

Stuart won in three straights sets, 6-0 to advance to the quarter-finals where he was drawn against number one seed Ruben Vanhollebeke, from Belgium, who had broken the world record in the seeding round.

Stuart meets his inspiration, the American archer Matt Stutzman EMN-191006-122606002

The first set went to Vanhollebeke as expected, but the second set was much closer, with the Belgian edging it by just one point.

Stuart found his top form in the third set, hitting golds and a red to claw back to 4–2.

But the resurgence was short-lived, spurring Vanhollebeke into pulling out all the stops to take the next set and the match 6-2.

The Louth archer ended the competition with a world ranking of eighth as a losing quarter-finalist, alongside his team-mate John Nicholl, who is deaf and blind, who is now ranked sixth.

Among many memorable moments, Stuart met his inspiration, the armless American archer Matt Stutzman, considered a legend in the sport, who uses his right foot to hold his bow.

His performance also earned further invitations to compete overseas, including Germany and Andorra.

Rick said: “It fills me with pride to say Stuart did us proud with his outstanding performance on the world’s stage in front of so many people.

“It was an honour to support Stuart at this prestigious event, showing the world there are only people with varying abilities not disabilities.”