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  • Netflix Shines Light on Paralympic Movement


    08/25/20

    (ATR) "Rising Phoenix" highlights the struggles and successes of the Paralympic Movement.

    Promotional poster for "Rising Phoenix"(Facebook)
    The Netflix documentary includes the rejection by the Soviet Union to host the Paralympics for Moscow 1980 and also London 2012, the most successful Paralympic Games. It also covers the threat of cancellation for Rio 2016.

    The streaming platform releases the film globally on Wednesday.

    Along with documenting the history of the movement, the film sheds light on the stories of several Paralympians.

    One of them is Matt Stutzman, who won a silver medal in archery at London 2012. Born without arms, Stutzman also owns the world record for longest accurate shot by any archer at 310 yards (283.5 meters). He spoke with Around the Rings.

    ATR: How did you get involved with the documentary, and what are you hoping viewers gain from watching?

    Stutzman:  Last year or so, they reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in being a part of "Rising Phoenix". Of course I pretty much immediately wanted to do it. Just because I want to help bring awareness to what is happening to people with physical disabilities. I felt like this is the perfect platform to share that. There are so many amazing athletes in this film, and the way that they put it all together to bring awareness to change people’s perspective on what people with physical disabilities can do. And what people can even do if they don't have a physical disability.

    ATR: In the documentary I liked how you mentioned admiring Michael Jordan. What peaked your interest in archery?

    Stutzman: I had a lot of moments growing up, that I thought would be my Michael Jordan moment and I failed quite a bit. One day I was sitting on the couch at home with my two boys this was in 2010 [October] trying to figure out how I was going to literally put food on the table, pay my bills because I couldn’t get a job. People aren't going to hire me based on what I looked like, even if I qualified on paper I still wouldn't get the job. I was just trying to figure out what I was going to do and I saw a guy on TV, he had a bow and he was in the woods providing for his family. I was like hey that is something I can do. I got a bow, a week later I taught myself how to shoot. The second I started shooting it, I knew I had found my Michael Jordan moment. I knew that this was how I’m going to provide, and potentially change the world.

    ATR: What would you say is the most challenging part of the sport?

    Stutzman: Probably the mental aspect of things. Pretty quickly I learned how to shoot, it really wasn’t the hard part. Learning how to mentally stay strong. There is a lot of mental to the sport.
    Matt Stutzman in 2014. (Flickr)

    ATR: Watching the documentary it seems like your parents raised you without putting limitations on yourself. Would you say you applied that same principle with your career?

    Stutzman: Yes, I wouldn't have the career that I have without my parents. At a very young age my parents pushed me and taught me how to adapt to the world, instead of the world adapting to me. Because of that I was able to think outside of the box and was able to shoot a bow when everyone says it's impossible for me. I would definitely not be here if it wasn’t for their way of thinking.

    ATR: How did you react to Tokyo 2020’s delay, and as a Paralympian does the delay bring more anxiety as the countdown restarts?

    Stutzman: There were some parts of it that were kind of devastating and very stressful. There were a lot of parts that weren't. The stressful part was I immediately lost my income; that’s what I do for a living. I had to figure out, once again, how I was going to provide for my family. I guess the good things that happened from it: I was able to get closer to my family. We were able to do a lot more things together. I'm not traveling at all, having that quality time with my boys is something I’ll never forget. If I was traveling I wouldn't have this time with them. As well as the training aspect of things. This gives me another year to be prepared, to be better than I was going to be this year. Which I’m super excited about, because I feel like everyone is doing the same. Which means next year’s games will be that much more high class.
    Matt Stutzman competing during Paralympic Archery in London 2012. (Flickr)

    ATR: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex mentioned in the documentary that London 2012 brought a lot of fans to the Paralympics. Do you think Covid-19 will break up the momentum that has been achieved?

    Stutzman: Absolutely not. In fact, I feel Tokyo will be as big as London if not bigger. The reason I say that is because, with everything everyone is going through right now with Covid [and stuff], it's affecting everyone in the world. Everybody in the world is affected by this, and I’m crossing my toes everything is good to go and next year we have the Games. Which means that it will also be a celebration of the whole world getting through this together. It will just bring everybody closer together.

    ATR: What do you hope your legacy will be, and what kind of impact do you hope to make?

    Stutzman: I guess I haven't really thought about the legacy but I do want people to look back at Matt Stutzman for who he is. Somebody who led by example, who put it all out there and never quit. Even when he was told he can quit. I just remember my entire life people told me I would never be able to do stuff. And now I’m doing stuff. I want them to look back that I had the perfect chance to not do those things because I have no arms but yet here I am. I am doing it, and I’m doing it by example not just by my words.

    Homepage Photo: Netflix. 

    Written by Greer Wilson

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