Shelagh Fogarty: Stutzman scoffs at talk of the impossible

He loves fishing, plays guitar with his feet and does all the chores any dad does

I'm sitting outside the Olympic Stadium thinking how lucky I am to be here. My first night in what BBC athletics commentator Mike Costello called "this volcano of sport" spoilt me somewhat. I watched open-mouthed as Alan Oliveira beat Oscar Pistorius in the 200m, and thought my ears might burst as the crowd roared David Weir over the line in the 5,000m wheelchair race.

Luck plays a part in everyone's life, I suppose, but some get luckier than others. American athlete Matt Stutzman won a silver medal this week in the Paralympic Archery competition. He was born with no arms. Medical reports cite no clinical reason for it. Just one of those things. For his parents it was a thing they couldn't cope with or stick with. They put him up for adoption at 13 months old. This is where his luck gets better. Jean and Leon Stutzman liked the look of him as they viewed a number of other children needing a home. The others weren't disabled so years later he asked them why they chose him. On my radio show he told me they said he was jumping up and down to get their attention so in a way it was he who chose them. It's down to him. They've been giving him that message ever since – "Impossible is a state of mind" their mantra.

Matt took them at their word. He taught himself to shoot so he could go hunting with his father, he loves fishing, plays the guitar with his feet, and does all the chores any young dad does. He dislikes being treated as a disabled person because he believes there's nothing he can't get around. When I met him his directness – about everything – soon put his lack of arms at the back of the queue of things to notice about him.

Along with several of the 5 Live commentary team we talked about the daily reality of living with a physical disability. Swimmers Marc Woods and Kate Grey joined reporter Andy Stevenson in sharing their tales, not of woe, but of how much of their time is spent helping other people to get over the discomfort or curiosity they have about what they see. Kate lost her left hand and part of her arm in an accident at the age of two. She decided at senior school to ditch the prosthetic arm she used and just show people who she is. She made us roar with laughter as she described how friends use the squidgy bit at the end as a kind of stress ball. Andy has no arms and said how noticeable it has been at the Paralympic Games that no one stares at him – a frequent occurrence usually. It's been liberating, he says. Can you imagine having some aspect of your body stared at, judged, or alarm people every single day? It takes some self-possession not to let that distort your sense of yourself.

Marc, who has been commentating on the swimming with Kate, uses a prosthetic leg and is a multiple Paralympic swimming champion. He had cancer as a teenager and had his leg amputated as a result. During a stint as a lifeguard he opted for shorts one day because it was hot. A woman who'd seen him every day beforehand, in his role as lifeguard, saw him, looked startled and said, "Can you swim?" Four gold medals in the pool, my dear.

It's a common theme and it's been said before. First the birth defect, illness or accident disables a person, then we do. I say "we" because most of us, if we are honest, have thought or done this kind of thing. I wasn't sure if I should offer my hand to Matt Stutzman when I met him. Instead of asking him directly I just didn't do it. He was having none of that! I suddenly understood Kate's pals. It felt nice.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried