Contributed by Break the Barriers
From the shining gold medals of the “Final Five” women’s gymnasts to the spectacular 23rd gold medal of Michael Phelps, Team USA has so far dominated the Rio Olympic Games.
But what many do not know is that Fresno has its own Paralympian gold medalist and USA Team Captain in archer Jeff Fabry. He will head to Rio on Aug. 29th, where he will compete in the Men’s W1 Compound (the class of archers who have the most severe disability), and go once again for gold. The Paralympics begin on Sept. 7 and continue through Sept. 18.
For Fabry, the pressure of this competition and the Paralympic Games is nothing new. He already has won gold and bronze medals in the Athens, Beijing, and London Paralympics.
“[I intend to] perform at the best level I can, stay focused, and positive,” Fabry said.
This determination reflects the mental and physical perseverance of Fabry’s strength, even in the face of fear and discouragement. At age 15, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in the loss of his right arm and leg; however, he has conquered what many would see as a disability, and claims victory over the challenges and battles that he faces.
As both an athlete and coach in archery, Fabry has shown incredible ability that continues to inspire people of all ages. Since joining Break the Barriers’ team in 2014, he has had the experience of seeing the joy and accomplishments of his students.
“The blind and visually impaired archery class at Break the Barriers has been such a blessing for our son Nathaniel,” said Liz Grabowski, a parent of one of Fabry’s students. “The class knocks down barriers and makes it possible for my son to excel. His confidence has soared and he leaves class with a huge smile on his face. Break the Barriers and his archery coach [Fabry] help my son reach his fullest potential.”
Fabry coaches veterans, children and adults with various abilities and athletes competing internationally.
“It feels like I’m the one out there shooting. It’s that mental high that keeps you going,” Fabry said about watching his students compete.
Fabry’s love of coaching shows as he encourages his students to “keep believing” and not “give up on the dream.”
“It’s not going to be easy, but it’s worth it,” Fabry said.
While pursuing his dreams, some of the difficulties Fabry has faced is the challenge of juggling his roles as a father, husband, and provider. There is a lot of sacrifice, time, and energy that goes into being a world-class athlete, including being away from home for a long period. However, on the difficult and exhausting days of practicing and competing, he says his biggest inspiration and motivation is his family.
“My family has given up a lot,” he said. “If I gave up on my dream, I’d be giving up on them.”
Fabry draws his strength from the encouragement and support of his devoted family and knows that they will be cheering him on as they watch him, via computer, as he competes in Rio.
In preparation for the Paralympics Games, he has has been training and mentally preparing as much as possible for what is to come.
“You can’t worry about your opponents because that just creates doubt,” he said.
He describes how shooting in the head-to-head event is his favorite because it is such an emotional rollercoaster; it is not so much about who’s the best shooter, but “who’s mentally the toughest.” Fabry aims for victory, not only as a Paralympic athlete, but as a person that many people would say is “unable do anything.”
“When other archers see me, they are inspired, and want to keep shooting,” he said.
He represents and gives hope to people with missing limbs, or those in wheelchairs, who do not allow limits to be placed on them.
For Fabry, everything he has worked so hard to accomplish comes down to one moment: sitting in the Sambadrome stadium in Rio de Janeiro – holding the bow string’s nylon attachment with his mouth, and then concentrating intently on the target. All the work, all the sacrifice, all the pressure, all the excitement is being held in one last moment: release. watch the arrow fly from the bow and listen as the “swoosh” of the arrow pierces through the air.