Shooting for the stars
01, January 0001
Mark is 16 years of age and attends Broadford Secondary College, where he is a Year 10 student.
Mark has spastic diplegia Cerebral Palsy, which affects his ability to walk, write and stand. He walked unassisted for the first time aged five, then underwent multi-level surgery at the end of his first year of school, which now enables him to balance and remain stationary.
Mark is involved in school activities including sport and theatrical production.
He also enjoys swimming, kayaking and working with the animals on the family property.
He usually walks to school; he has to concentrate to remain upright and falls frequently. The energy and concentration involved in just getting around is considerable, but he still prefers to walk if he is able. Mark uses his wheelchair for any shopping or visiting unfamiliar places. He loves to push his limits and, although sometimes that really frustrates him, he can usually find a way to achieve what he wants to do.
Mark has many sporting achievements but he excels at archery. He first joined a learner’s group at the nearest archery club, some 50 minutes’ from home. All the gear was supplied by the club, and coaching enabled Mark to quickly show that he grasped the concepts and could be quite competitive with the other kids - which he enjoyed.
It is seven years since Mark first shot an arrow and he is now a seated archer -even though when he first started, he shot standing. The concentration required to shoot the arrows competitively means he cannot maintain his balance whilst on fulldraw.
He uses a compound bow, and his dad or I help with scoring and pulling the arrows from the target. Mark finds that walking the four-kilometres required during a single competition is beyond his capacity to walk and shoot well, so he usually walks to the target face every second end, which means he walks just under two-kilometres in each competition.
Competitions usually take place over four to five hours with a lunch break in the middle. Often walking to and from the target, Mark places a hand on his dad’s shoulder to steady himself, and ease the concentration of having to maintain his balance.
Mark now holds both the senior and junior titles for disabled compound archers. He has shot on the line with the best archers in Australia and the world - both senior and junior – and thoroughly enjoyed the experience both competitively and socially.
His most treasured moment was in Adelaide at the 2003 National Junior Games for the Disabled, where he travelled to the opening ceremony in a bus with athletes from the Republic of South Africa.
The bus arrived at the venue positively vibrating with the unmistakable sounds of African singing; it was a cultural and emotional experience you can only get by meeting and mixing with people.
In 2005 Mark was participating in selection trials for the Archery Australia Junior Nationals, which was held in Brisbane in January 2006 and competed in the Victorian Clout and Indoor Championships in June and July respectively.
“I’d love to represent Australia at the next Paralympics in Beijing in 2008,” Mark says of his future goals. A dream? Maybe not, as his name has been put forward as possibly being capable of qualifying.
Anyway, with Mark’s love of his sport and of competing, it will be fun just trying.