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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January 2005, 14:48 GMT
Q&A: John Cavanagh
Paralympic archer John Cavanagh
Cavanagh claimed Paralympic gold in Athens
Paralympic gold medalist John Cavanagh took time out from training to answer a selection of your questions.

Cavanagh was on form in Athens, setting a new Paralympic record on his way to winning one of Team GB's two archery gold medals.

The success of Cavanagh, as well the ladies team of Anita Chapman, Maggie Parker and Kathy Smith, has helped raise the profile of the sport.

Thanks for all your questions. A selection of John's answers appears below.

What are the main differences between Archery events in the Olympics and Paralympics?

Matt B, London, UK

Almost none: the distance (70 metres), the scoring, the timing and the equipment is the same. There are a few allowances in the rules to take account the archer's different mobility (wheelchairs, shooting stools, etc.) so they are allowed to remain on the shooting line.

The biggest difference is in my class for wheelchair users with upper limb impairment - we are allowed to use compound bows that have a mechanical advantage compared to the recurve bows used in the other classes and at the Olympics. We are also allowed devices to hold and release the string instead of fingers.

How does it feel to be a "Paralympic star"? Has it changed your life? And where can I buy that hat??

Amy Holley, Wiltshire

Well, it's nice to be appreciated by my competitors and others in the archery world, and I've been invited along to events like the BBC Sports Personality awards. Otherwise it hasn't made that much difference, I'm back at work, which is a completely different world (see "That hat" came from a Japanese high-street clothing chain, ages ago!

In such a sport, wouldn't it be posssible for disabled athletes to compete with the so called 'valid' athletes? Thanks in advance for the answer.

Capelle, Belgium

Yes, and most of us go to only a few 'disabled' competitions each year. The rest of the time we compete at normal events. Generally our scores are a bit lower but a few people (like the Italian Paula Fantato) have competed in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We are very proud of you for winning! How did you cope with the heat in Athens?

Nonna Haydock, Oregon, USA

Many thanks! Before going to Athens, we were in Cyprus for ten days, where it was much hotter. So we had got quite used to the heat and knew how to cope with it, like the right clothing, fluids, shade and so forth.

How were you and your arrows affected by the wind? It looked pretty breezy there. Are you a pusher, puller, or both? Cheers!

Tim Mason, Halifax, UK

Thankfully the wind wasn't actually too bad on the competition field, it was fairly sheltered by the stands of the baseball stadium. On the other side where the practice lanes were it was fairly blowy. I was lucky because I have difficulty keeping steady in a strong wind. Push/pull - it's got to be both!

Well done; how much training/shooting do you get to put in 100 arrows or more?

Jim Cook, Stenhousemuir

I took five months off work before the Games, so I was able to do a lot more than previously. It varied, but I suppose I did the equivalent of at least 120 arrows a day, mostly over short distances with a slightly more powerful bow. Almost every weekend throughout the summer there was a competition of one kind or another. At the Cyprus holding camp immediately prior to Athens we shot all day at 70 metres.

Apart from building up and maintaining strength, I don't think it's the number of shots that counts, more important is to do good ones, otherwise you just reinforce bad habits. A normal FITA round is 12 dozen, plus the practice ends, so we needed to be able to easily cope with that number over the course of a day without tiring. In the final rounds of the knock-out there are only 12 arrows in each match so you don't have to worry about stamina by then!

Such a performance as yours in the Paralympics was amazing to see. I am impressed by the accuracy of your shot as well as the skill involved in archery. How did you become involved in this sport?

Matthew Dowley, York

Thank you for your comments! I became involved through my stay at the National Spinal Injuries Unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where it was one of the sports that were used as part of the rehabilitation programme. Then I went to a local club, entered the National Wheelchair Games and started taking part in various indoor and outdoor competitions.

What are your bows and arrows made of?

Tandra, London

Nowadays it's all high-tech kit. The arrows are very narrow aluminium tubes wrapped in carbon fibre, slightly thicker in the middle to give extra stiffness where it's needed. The fletchings are made of mylar, curved to make the arrows spin and give them a bit more stability as they fly. They are about five mm in diameter, weigh about 20 grams and cost 300 per matched dozen - thankfully re-useable!

The bows have a central handle made of aluminium that is computer-machined from a solid block, and limbs made of layered carbon fibre, fibreglass and ceramic materials. The strings are made of synthetic non-stretch fibres that are stronger than steel. A bow with sight, stabilisers etc. would cost 1,000.

Now that you are the Paralympic champion, what are your future goals in the sport of archery?

David Hilton, Felixstowe

Now I'll have to try and repeat this at the 2005 World Championships, that won't be easy, then play it year by year, perhaps even to Beijing?

Do you feel that there is a significant difference in promotion and standard of archery as a sport in the Olympics, and Paralympics?


Yes but things are getting closer. There has recently been an agreement for closer interaction between the the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) and FITA, the sport's international governing body. In Britain we get fairly good coverage (within the sport) because of our successes, that has also influenced funding from UKSport for the Olympic/Paralympic disciplines as a whole.

It is still very low profile and could do with some better PR. In terms of the Games, the BPA has far less to spend on promotion than the BOA. To a certain extent, differences in standard (scores) are inevitable because of the different physical capabilities. Also there are very few full-time Paralympic archers compared to Olympic archers.

Where did you get that hat? No, seriously, are you considering entering the Paralympics in 2008?

Virginia Graham, London

Funny how people comment on the hat. I used to wear white hats but they quickly get very dirty, especially as I soak it in cold water during hot weather. Much better than baseball caps, quite a lot of archers use a similar style because the peak is smaller and controllable, your ears don't get burnt in the sun and it keeps the rain off.

Beijing? Let's see what happens year by year. It's the 2007 season that counts, because results that year will determine the allocation of places at the Games for each country. Then the country sends whoever is up to scratch in 2008!

GB women take archery title
26 Sep 04 |  Disability Sport
Archery gold for Cavanagh
25 Sep 04 |  Disability Sport

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