In his 37 years, Matt Stutzman of Fairfield, Iowa, has never once wished he looked the same as everyone else.
After all, he’s spent his entire life proving he’s just as capable and talented (if not more) as his peers, especially when it comes to shootings arrows. Sure, he was born without arms, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the best archers in the country.
Matt learned to adapt from a young age. Overwhelmed by their son’s physical difference, his birth parents put him up for adoption as a baby. He ended up joining Jean and Leon Stutzman’s family of nine. They tried giving him prosthetic arms, but Matt refused to use them.
“We decided not to do anything just because he’s not going to live in a handicapped world,” Leon told CBS News. “He’s going to live in a world where people expect he has to adapt to those kinds of things. So, that was the philosophy that we took: figure it out.”
Thanks to their hands-off approach, Matt grew into a self-sufficient man determined to provide for his family. The only problem? He had a hard time finding a job because there were few companies willing to give him a chance. But that didn’t deter him from taking care of his sons. In 2009, Matt bought a bow and fed his family with a deer he shot himself.
This boosted his confidence so much that Matt began entering target shooting competitions. One brand even started sponsoring him! But a friend’s reality check inspired Matt to get serious about the sport.
“And he goes, Matt, the reason why they sponsor you is because you have no arms, and you draw attention to their products, and it’s not because you’re good,” Matt said.
From then on, he vowed to make a name for himself because of his talent, not the way he looks.
“January of 2010 is when I decided to be the best archer in the world,” he added. “And by 2011, I had already made the U.S. Team, and by 2012, I went to my first Games, and won a Silver [at the Paralympic Games in London]!”
What’s more, Matt doesn’t use modified bows; just a strap around his chest! The “armless archer” isn’t interested in special treatment — he’s too busy proving he’s doesn’t need it!
Matt’s hard work and can-do attitude have since paid off in incredible ways. While his goal of competing in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo will have to wait because of the pandemic, he’s already earned greater awards.
“I started archery just to provide for my family, right?” he said. “But now I’ve seen it’s much bigger. When someone with a disability comes up to me saying they saw me do this or that, now they can do that, then it makes me feel good about myself.
What an inspiration! Matt is living proof that our only limits are the ones we create for ourselves. Keep shooting for the stars, Matt!
Share to encourage others to chase their dreams, no matter how out of reach they may seem!
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