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TORONTO, Canada - Team USA shined at the Parapan American Games this morning. In a long day starting with qualifications and continuing with elimination matches all the way through semifinals, the competition was tough. U.S. archers persevered and came out on top - they will shoot in 7 of 8 medal matches tomorrow.
The continental championship finals are incredibly important for the U.S. archers hoping to shoot at the Paralympic Games next summer, as this is the first chance to qualify quota slots.
There is 1 compound women's slot as well as 2 compound men, 2 recurve men, and 2 recurve women's slots up for grabs as the top finishers in each event will earn those slots for their countries.
Matt Stutzman (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Andre Shelby (Jacksonville, Florida) led the hottest division at the Parapan American Games this morning in qualifications. Going back and forth between first and second for the compound open men, Stutzman finally took a three-point lead. With a new event record of 687, Stutzman took the 1st place seed.
Stutzman had byes into the semifinals where he faced teammate Ben Thompson (Ladson, South Carolina) and won to shoot for gold against Shelby who ultimately qualified 2nd with 684 and won an incredible one arrow shoot off in the quarterfinals. This match up promises to be intense!
Natalie Wells (Manteca, California) qualified 2nd and Kinga Kiss-Johnson (McCormick, South Carolina), seeded 3rd shot head to head in the semifinals as well. In an all-USA showdown, Wells took the win 6-2 to advance to shoot for gold.
Eric Bennett (Surprise, Arizona) and Timothy Palumbo (Buffalo, New York) led the recurve open men's field all morning. Bennett qualified 1st with an event record 635 and Palumbo finished the 72 arrows 2nd with 626. Bennett managed strong shots as the day continued to win his semifinal 7-3, but teammate Palumbo was upset 6-2 and will shoot for bronze.
Martha Chavez (Lemoore, California), who qualified 3rd for compound open women will also shoot for bronze after a difficult semifinal match. Samantha Tucker (Colorado Springs, Colorado) finished 5th.
Stutzman shared: "Super proud of the whole team, Eric in recurve is shooting for gold Andre and myself are shooting for compound gold tomorrow. I'm super excited because no matter what we have just earn two spots for USA for the 2016 Paralympic Games. Boom!"
Team USA qualified 4 slots as they are guaranteed a top 2 finish for recurve open men and women and both 1st and 2nd finishes for compound open men.
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