Get Inspired: How Paralympian archer John Stubbs was saved - twice

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Get Inspired: How Paralympian archer John Stubbs was saved

There can be a time in anyone's life where they feel everything is going in the right direction and suddenly it all changes in one frightening moment.

Paralympian John Stubbs is Britain's most successful archer with a cabinet full of accolades including a Paralympic gold medal from 2008 and four world titles.

However, the 51-year-old has had to overcome a traumatic accident and battle mental health issues. It all started on 6 November 1989 - a date which would have more significance later in his triumphant archery career.

John Stubbs
Stubbs began participating in archery as a hobby after a life-changing accident in 1989, until he turned it into a career five years later

A life-saving hoax call

Aged 24, Stubbs was content with his situation in life as he travelled home on his motorbike from his dream job as a fabrication engineer to his young wife and newborn son in Warrington, Cheshire. But on a cold and dark evening, his world was turned upside down.

"Somebody in a car sideswiped me. I ended up landing in a farmer's field, not knowing at the time how bad my injuries were," Stubbs reflected.

"The driver had gone. My only thoughts were to get up and switch my bike off. But I couldn't. I crawled towards the bike on the edge of the road and the amount of pain I was in made me pass out."

His ordeal was not over, though.

John Stubbs
Stubbs was crowned a Paralympic champion with the British archery team in 2008 at the Beijing Paralympics

"Another car ran me over while I was down. They couldn't see me on the road," he adds. "But the next person to see me was a female doctor.

"There had been a hoax call for an accident and the ambulance that picked me up was on its way back to the station.

"If I had waited for another ambulance, I would have probably died at the scene. I had to have a 68-pint blood transfusion because I had severed the femoral arteries in both my legs."

A cry for help

Stubbs would later have his right leg amputated, and treatment on his damaged left leg. Months after, as he was undergoing rehabilitation, Stubbs was lost and did not know how to cope with his predicament.

"You're thrown into this situation where you've acquired a disability through no fault of your own," he said.

"I felt like I was a burden on my family. I was seeking solace in the bottle.

"It was at that point I felt there was only one way out and that was when I tried to commit suicide."

Fortunately for Stubbs, a concerned neighbour and close friend Mark Chadwick had followed him to a local pond, where he had attempted to drown himself.

"My neighbour dragged me out," said Stubbs.

"It was a cry for help more than anything. My doctor was told about this and I went through counselling."

'I realised I had a lot more to offer'

Stubbs received treatment at a clinic in Withington, Manchester, where he realised his situation was better than other people in less favourable circumstances.

"It felt like a shock treatment to me. Going in there and seeing people that would love to be in the position I was. It was that kind of place where they relied on other things to keep them going," he said.

John Stubbs
Stubbs did not win a medal at the London 2012 Paralympics but returned to the podium four years later in Rio with a silver in the mixed team event

"That's when I realised 'what have I got to complain about?' It was a reality check for me and it really hit me hard, emotionally. I realised I had a lot more to offer."

'Archery made me a success'

With his new-found determination and drive to succeed in life, Stubbs tried a variety of sports before finding his true purpose, armed with a bow and a set of arrows, in 1994.

"I was playing disabled cricket but I felt like I needed an extra activity," he said.

"I went down to a disabled sports club to try a variety of things because I was struggling to find a sport that would float my boat. But then I peered through some double doors and there was this guy teaching archery, who beckoned me to come and have a go.

"I was really chuffed that I had found something that challenged me," added the former world number one Para-archer.

"I didn't feel like I had that when I had my accident. That was what was missing.

"I never realised at the time where it would actually take me and now I've been across the world with it. It made me realise that I've been very fortunate in my life as a disabled person. It made me a success."

Accident anniversary given new meaning

Although Stubbs went on to top the podium at European and world events, with a career-defining moment as a gold medallist at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, he would always feel low on the anniversary of his accident.

That was until he claimed two gold medals and a silver at the 2013 World Para-archery Championships in Thailand on its 24th anniversary.

John Stubbs at the 2013 World Para-Archery Championships in Thailand
Stubbs won two gold medals and a silver at the World Para-Archery Championships on 6 November 2013 - the 24th anniversary of his accident

"I always used to look at that date in a negative stance because that's the day my whole world changed," he said.

"I did that every year right up until I won gold on that day. To compete and win a gold medal on what usually was a sad day... I used to remember that day for all the wrong reasons but now it will be remembered for a good reason."

The next World Para-archery Championships are in Beijing this September and Stubbs feels there is room for one more gold medal to complete his career.

"I want to win gold at the World Championships in Beijing," he said. "I won a Paralympic gold medal there in 2008 and I feel like my life has gone full circle now."