Jeff Fabry: “That feeling of winning is what pushes me to always want to do my best”
Image used courtesy Teresa Johnson.
“I went to this tournament as a newbie to the international archery scene,” he says. “I left as a champion! That feeling of winning, still to this day, is what pushes me to always want to do my best.”
Jeff collected bronze medals at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games. That elusive gold medal haunted his dreams. So, in 2012, when it became time to head to his third Paralympics in London, he was more focused than ever.
After shooting a good qualifying round, Jeff advanced into the head-to-head bracket. His first match was against John Cavanagh of Great Britain:
“John is a top match shooter, who in the last previous Games was a hurdle that I couldn’t overcome. So, I knew I had to get over this obstacle to reach that gold medal. Beating John on his home turf was a must!”
Jeff beat Cavanagh 7-1 in the compound men’s W1 quarterfinals.
“We had a great match with me coming out on top. After getting past John, I knew I was on the road to gold.”
Next came a semifinal against Canada’s Norbert Murphy. This match started out well for Fabry until the third set when the American had to leave the field of play in a rush and miss some arrows, and the Canadian managed to catch up to 3-3.
“My bow slipped from my hand during the follow through of a shot,” Jeff remembers.
“It bounced off the ground, causing my strings to come off the cams. I thought my Paralympic dream was over. My back up bow was in the tent.”
“The line judge said I could retrieve my bow but the match would continue will I left the field. I quickly retrieved my bow and came back to shoot in the fourth end.”
The States archer quickly managed to regain the lead, 5-3 up – and, then, with 27 in the fifth to his opponent’s 22, won the match.
Against seemingly surmountable odds, Fabry moving on to a gold medal match against the reigning Paralympic Champion from Beijing 2008, David Drahoninsky of the Czech Republic.
The final match began with a triple-10 for Fabry and one arrow out of the centre for the Czech athlete. In the second set, Drahoninsky quickly managed to catch up a four-points win, 29-25.
In the following two sets Fabry hit the centre at least twice, while Drahoninsky missed the middle with two arrows each time. Fabry steadily collected set points and collected gold, 6-2.
As the American remembers, it was a fight to the end, but in the end, it was his victory: “As I released that last arrow, watching it land in the 10-ring, I knew I finally won that gold medal!”
“I had reached my ultimate goal that I had been working all these years for. Truly a dream come true.”
“As I left the field, I saw a little boy that I had spoken to after my semifinal match. He was around my son’s age. I went over to him. He gave me a high five and congratulated me.”
“To this day, when I look at my gold medal, I think of him and his big smile.”