• Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

Para archers on target – Winnipeg Free Press

ByMary M. Ward

Oct 19, 2022

Doctors wondered if Rob Cox would come out of the operating room a year ago.

There he lay with tubes protruding from his midsection after a pair of stomach surgeries. Although these were only the latest in a long series of surgeries during her life, a series of complications this time put her life in danger.

“They went back and did x-rays and found my intestine wasn’t connected to the colostomy so once it started it was going to have to go back inside my body which would have killed me. “, said Cox on Monday.

Archery Manitoba Photo

Chris Waterman (left) will travel to Chile for the Parapan Am Championships in November. The event will serve as a qualifier for the 2023 Parapan American Games, which in itself will be an important qualifier for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

After going under the knife again to fix the problem, Cox, 55, was left with a ‘huge hole’ in his stomach that took months to heal, sticking him to a hospital bed.

While many would be concerned about just surviving one more day through the tax reclaim process, Selkirk’s product had something else in mind: to reclaim his place among the nation’s top para-archers.

“My whole thing…was, ‘Am I going to be able to go back to archery?'” Cox said. “That was literally my question the whole time I was there: ‘Am I going to be able to get back to my sport?'”

Not only has Cox, a T-10 paraplegic, returned to his beloved sport, but he quickly qualified for the Parapan American Archery Championships in Santiago, Chile, which will take place from 19 to November 26.

Cox is one of three para-archers who will represent Canada at the international compound archery event. He will be joined by fellow Manitoban Chris Waterman and Kevin Evans from British Columbia.

Those who perform well in Santiago will qualify for the 2023 Parapan American Games next November, which, if backed by another strong performance, could secure a spot at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

“I’m excited. I’m nervous,” said Cox, who was discharged from hospital in July and started shooting again in August. It’s been a long time for me to be back here and I’m grateful to be back.

“For me, it’s exciting because I was able to come out and be ready and able to go with this team to Chile.”

Cox, who has been practicing archery since 2002, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to international competition. He has participated in several world championships and has twice been a substitute for Canada at the Paralympic Games (Beijing 2008 and London 2012).

An eight-year hiatus from the sport after the 2012 Games, due to multiple illnesses and surgeries, essentially forced him to start from scratch. After regaining his full power in 2020, Cox has competed in two top international competitions, both of which he won.

“I’ve been in this field before and I want to be able to get back there,” Cox said of his return to the Paralympic team.

While Cox may be the most experienced Manitoban to represent the country in November, he won’t be the only one.

The Parapan American Championships will be the biggest tournament of Waterman’s career.

The 44-year-old Winnipegger isn’t new to archery, but he certainly doesn’t have the experience of Cox, who he met in 2019.

Waterman shot for much of his childhood but quit when he was 16. An outdoor enthusiast, his urge to shoot resurfaced as an adult in 2018 in the form of hunting, but was violently cut short after a head-on collision on the highway shattered his T-12 vertebrae, the leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Winnipeg para-archer Rob Cox has been back shooting since July.

His thirst for shooting persisted, but he didn’t know how to do it in his new situation.

“I thought it was going to be different. A different way to set up, a different way to position your body,” he said.

Around this time, Waterman received an email informing him of an upcoming accessible sports expo that would include archery. After learning the basics of shooting from a chair, he met Cox in Selkirk, where Waterman quickly adapted to his new situation, rising through the ranks before joining Team Manitoba and competing in 2019.

He has since competed in the World Para Archery Championships in Dubai and the Arizona Cup, both of which he finished mid-pack.

“It was a big step to be able to get back into that part of what I love to do,” Waterman said. “It was nice to be able to start doing that stuff again, and it’s possible to do that. There are certainly different ways to do this, but it is possible to do them.

“I’ve been working at the (Parapan Am Championships) since last year. It was hard, I trained a lot. When I finally (qualified), I was like, ‘OK, I think this is happening, this is crazy.’ I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s excited, nervous and scared all at once.

In what he calls an “awesome experience,” Waterman is setting no expectations in a tournament that will feature some of the best para-archers in the world.

“That’s what I keep saying to myself and to others: ‘I’m a stone’s throw from the Olympics. These are giant steps, but the steps are right there in front of me,” he said.

“I want to do the best I can, and that’s all I can do. I’m just happy to go and whatever happens, happens. But I want to do my best and make everyone around me proud of me.

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