A few minutes chatting with record-breaking archer Matt Stutzman makes you wonder if his world record is even the most remarkable thing about him.
Stutzman fired his way into history last weekend by launching an arrow into the middle of a target situated 230 yards away, beating the previous mark by 12 yards.
And he did it with his feet. And his mouth. Why, you ask? Because he doesn't have arms.
The 28-year-old father of two from Fairfield, Iowa, treated the record much like he treats everything else in his life -- as just another obstacle to overcome. Despite the extraordinary difficulties you might think would be associated with having been born with no arms, he does not own a single aid for making his life without hands easier.
Driving? No problem. Stutzman just uses his feet and operates a truck without any modifications. Opening doors? No problem. He just curls his toes around the handle and pushes or pulls.
"My feet are basically my hands," Stutzman says in a telephone interview Thursday. "Pretty much anything you can think of that an able-bodied person uses their hands for, I can do with my feet.
"I realized pretty early on that if I was going to depend on life adapting to me then things were going to be difficult and frustrating and lonely. So I adapt to life and whatever challenges it throws up."
The latest challenges have revolved around archery, which, incredibly, he only started to take seriously over the last couple of years. With fierce determination and several hours of daily practice, Stutzman quickly reached a high competitive level against able-bodied opponents and is expected to claim a spot in the United States for the 2012 Paralympics in London.
The latest record attempt came about almost by accident, following a hunting session with a friend. "It was deer season and my friend was having trouble reaching 100 yards with his gun," Stutzman says. "So I took out my bow and made that distance easily. Then he said could I hit 200 yards and I did.
"That night I looked up on the Internet to see what the world record was and as soon as I saw it I knew I could make that distance."
The record attempt was completed in his neighboring state of Nebraska with just four arrows, and the response from around the world has been overwhelming. Messages have flooded in via Facebook and email, with some needing translation from foreign languages.
But this may only be a sign of things to come. A sponsorship deal with an archery equipment company means Stutzman has been able to come off disability benefits and support his family. His pride in that achievement, mightily impressive in itself, can be heard in his voice.
"It is a pretty special thing for me," he says. "To be able to provide for my wife and boys because of the hard work I have put into something is very satisfying."
To watch Stutzman fire his arrows is, quite simply, a sight to behold. First he clutches the bow between his big toe and second toe on his right foot. Most of us could barely spread our toes wide enough to perform such a feat, but he manages it with complete steadiness.
There is not a single jerk or flinch, not one wasted movement as he places the arrow onto the bow with his left foot and then draws the string back. A mechanism attached to his right jaw enables him to release the arrow and send it speeding towards its intended target.
It is so smooth, so graceful and so precise that is it easy to forget just what a preposterous concept it is.
For crying out loud, this guy is firing arrows with his feet.
But Stutzman has always had a deep-rooted determination to refuse to allow his so-called disability to define him. That attitude was instilled in him by his parents, Leon and Jean Stutzman, who adopted him at 13 months old.
"They chose me knowing I had no arms," Stutzman says. "And they never once allowed me to believe that I couldn't do everything that everyone else could do. The only difference was that at school I had a chair that was a little higher so I could write with my feet.
"It was the way they went about things -- not tough love, but just a way of showing me that I could adapt my body and my life to do anything I wanted to. I am still doing it."
Stutzman still has no idea why he was born without arms. Doctors have told him of statistics showing one in every 350,000 babies are born with missing limbs for no apparent reason. But people born with the heart of Matt Stutzman are far rarer than that.
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