Dr GUTTMANN—later to become Professor Sir Ludwig GUTTMANN
—set up a spinal injury unit at Stoke Mandeville for those who were spinal cord injured in the Second World War. He revolutionised the treatment of these people by introducing sport as part of the rehabilitation process.
In 1946 archery was introduced to this programme, and by 1948 the first competition was held on the front lawn of the hospital. This was the start of the great sport movement for the disabled which continues to grow today.
International events were held under the umbrella of The International Stoke Mandeville Games for paraplegics & tetraplegics (ISMGF
) every July. In the early days the rounds shot in archery were the St Nicholas Round (48 arrows at 40 yards and 36 arrows at 30 yards) for novices and the Albion Round (36 arrows at 80 yards, 60 yards and 50 yards) for established archers.
In 1960 the games now known as the 1st Paralympics were held in Rome and the decision was taken that every fourth year the games would be Paralympics. The athletes at this time were all assessed by doctors and given a class that was used for any sport in which they participated.
By 1970 the archery competition had changed to a FITA Round, and the competition was awarded "Star Status".
The 1992 Paralympics included athletes with many disabilities, not just spinal cord injured and was the last Paralympics held under the ISMGF banner, as following the games the International Paralympic Committee
(IPC) was born.
At the World Championships 1998 FITA piloted the sport specific classification system used today. It has three classes: "W1" for those with a disability in arms and legs, "W2" for those with a disability in the legs and "Standing".
The sport was growing with world and regional championships as single sport events, the Paralympics being the only multi-sport event in which Para-Archery is included.
From 2006 IPC was encouraging sports to develop into sport specific organisations and to either become independent sports or to move their governance to the sport specific body. Following discussion with the archers it was their wish to approach FITA to see if they would take over the governance of disabled archery.
These talks were encouraging and IPC worked with FITA to complete the process. On 1 January 2009 Para-Archery started the move from IPC to FITA and the process was completed at FITA Congress that year.
This completed the process from Para-Archery as a rehabilitation tool in 1946 to a totally sport specific organisation today.
Para-Archery has its own committee established within the FITA family. It continues to grow and move closer towards the system used by the other archery disciplines.
Archery is also one of the only sports to have had disabled athletes compete both in Olympic and Paralympics and many medals have been won in able-bodied competition by disabled archers. The most known ones are Neroli FAIRHALL (NZL)
and Danielle BROWN (GBR)
Head of Classification