- 13 Sep 08, 12:33 PM
A chance encounter with archery has given Britain's John Stubbs a new zest for life - and a Paralympic gold medal.
He and 20-year-old team-mate and fellow Paralympic debutant Danielle Brown lit up the Olympic Green Archery Field with some sparkling arrows to add two more golds to Great Britain's medal tally in Beijing in the individual compound events, with team-mate Mel Clarke managing a bronze.
Back in 1989, Stubbs, now 43, was involved in a road traffic accident and was twice given his last rites.
As a result of the accident he lost his leg and admits that afterwards he went through a torrid time.
One day, he went to a disabled sports club near his Warrington home and found, to his disappointment, that the pool table was already occupied.
He noticed a sign for archery taking place outside so he gave it a go. He had a brief encounter with the sport as a child but said he was pathetic. But his second coming was a far more successful experience.
Although not knowing much more about the sport beyond arrows and Robin Hood, he took to it like a duck to water and from those days in 1992, he is now Paralympic champion after his thrilling 114-109 win over Italy's Alberto Simonnelli.
Stubbs looked relaxed and animated throughout both his semi-final victory over Switzerland's Philippe Horner and his final with perfect 10s being greeted by a raised fist in the air and encouragement from the crowd.
"If you can't enjoy yourself yourself there is no point being here," he said after his win. "I have played to the crowd all week and had them on my side in the final which helped."
"I've proved to myself that I can shoot a good arrow and after getting the qualification score this year, I would now like to go and represent my country in the able-bodied arena.
"Sadly the compound competition is not part of the Olympic movement but just to go and shoot at the World Championships with my able-bodied counterparts would be a fantastic achievement."
Brown has also competed in the able-bodied arena, finishing fourth in the World Junior Championships in 2006, but the current world compound champion claimed the Paralympic title thanks to a comfortable 112-98 win over Japan's Chieko Kamiya.
The University of Leicester student has a condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which causes constant, chronic pain in her feel.
A former fell runner, she took up archery aged 15 in 2003 along with her dad at the Aire Valley Archers club.
Wearing her lucky pink hat, complete with a strap under her chin which keeps it firmly on her head in the blustery Yorkshire weather, Brown was the dominant figure in her event.
She beat team-mate Mel Clarke in the semi-finals and then held her nerve in the final, securing the victory before her last arrow.
"I've taken a year off from my law degree so that has freed up my days and I've been training every day," she said.
"I've had to miss lots of nights out with my friends because I have training or competitions the next day. It can be difficult but my friends are very understanding and we arrange to meet up around my training.
"But I've made a lot of friends around the archery circuit so when you go to competitions you get to meet up with them and catch up.
"It's been really fun being in the village and interesting to learn about other sports. It's fun hanging out with my team-mates but I get a bit bored talking about archery all the time.
"It's been great to hand go and learn about other sports like powerlifting and shooting but there is no chance of me changing sports."
Stubbs is a passionate exponent of disabled sport, a former England disabled cricketer and was awarded an MBE for his services to the sport.
"To people with disabilities I would say get out of bed, make something of your life," he told me. "At the end of the day you may find something that is your niche. I didn't know I had a talent for archery until I tried it."
He also had a pre-Games bet with team psychologist Katherine Bond and his gold medal win now means that Bond has to do an Irish jig at next Wednesday's closing ceremony - and Stubbs will be cheering her on all the way.
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