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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - The 2016 U.S. Paralympic Archery Team features a lot of firsts: the first U.S. compound open women's competitior, Samantha Tucker (Nampa, Idaho), the first U.S. W1 women's competitor, Lia Coryell (La Crosse, Wisconsin), and the first African American Paralympic archer, Andre Shelby (Jacksonville, Florida). There are also three returning Olympic medalists including London 2012 silver medalist Matt Stutzman (Fairfield, Iowa), four-time Paralympian and reigning Paralympic Champion Jeff Fabry (Leemore, California) and three-time Paralympian and World Champion Eric Bennett (Surprise, Arizona) who continues to make history with his third different equipment set up in as many Games. This richly loaded team is looking strong and ready to take on qualification rounds tomorrow.
"I'm really impressed with how well prepared this team is and how well they are getting along with each other," commented returning National Para Head Coach Randi Smith. "I'm very proud to be their coach and looking forward to some great competition."
"We have a strong team and I'm excited for these athletes that have worked so hard to make it this far. I'm honored to be able to support and serve them in their quest to bring home gold for the USA," added Assistant Coach John Stover.
Assitant Coach MJ Rogers agreed: "I think that the team and its current cohesion is incredibly strong. I don't think there's a concern or any kind of an issue that could crop up that they couldn't handle. A big piece of it has been some of the trainings that Randi has set up; in camps we purposefully work on managing frustration levels, so when they get in that position, they've already played that game. We've messed with timing systems, target assignments, we've run them through those drills in addition to the other training drills for shooting, accuracy and team play. I think that element is something that will not be averse to them here in Rio."
The team has now had the opportunity to practice in the official competition venues and has had a chance to settle into the athlete village. "Rio has been a lot of ups and downs for me so far," shared Kevin Polish (Carmichaels, Pennsylvania). "The village is great, the shooting venue is pretty awesome, the Opening Ceremony was more than I ever imagined. The food is great and there a lot of nice people here. The downs: long bus rides, village rooms are small and there are not a lot of things to keep you occupied other than shooting, but it's definitely been an experience that I won't ever forget can't wait till the tournament starts tomorrow. Go Team USA!"
Eric Bennett added: "I think the venue is pretty awesome. To get a chance to shoot in an established stadium that is rich with Brazilian Carnival history is pretty cool. The opening ceremonies were done extremely well and it was great to see the stadium packed! Walking into the stadium as part of team USA always overwhelms me with excitement and gratitude."
"Rio has already one upped the last three Paralympic Games for me," echoed Jeff Fabry. "Watching the athletes carry the torch during a rainstorm will be one of my top memories ever! Flat out determination!"
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