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Bullseye for visually impaired archer

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Kerry Ireland is not your typical sharp-shooting archer, although his collection of badges and medals would have you believe otherwise.

A visit to the Mauriceville resident’s home reveals a history rich with sporting certificates and honours, but that is only one part of an intriguing story.

Ireland is visually impaired, but continues to make waves in the sport of archery.

He is consistently competing with, and beating, his able-bodied rivals.

He started doing archery 13 years ago, but only took it up competitively in 2013.

In his own words, archery provided a lifeline to stay involved in sport, despite his disability.

“I went into CCS Disability Action six years ago and asked them if there was anything I could do and they said there was archery,” he said.

“I first started off doing recurve shooting but my eyesight was too bad for that, so now I use a compound bow.

“For someone who has got an eyesight problem I’m doing really, really well.”

Ireland said he would not be where he is today without the support of his neighbours, the Camerons, who allow him to practise his long-distance shooting in one of their paddocks.

He has had to battle a number of issues that able-bodied archers do not have to deal with, and as a result it takes a team effort for him to participate.

His father, John Ireland, looks after all the settings for his bow, and is usually close by with binoculars when he competes, to let him know where each arrow has struck.

It is a case of relying on other senses to be successful, a skill he has mastered over time.

“Shooting 90m for me is one big blur, I can’t see anything,” Kerry said.

“At 18-50m I’m having problems, and at 50-90m I have huge problems.”

Despite the impairment, he refuses to let his disability stop him having a bit of fun.

“People don’t realise I’ve got an eyesight problem, and I don’t tell them.

“I find it quite funny, I actually tell them afterwards and they wonder how I can do that.”

Ireland knows that if the bow is set up correctly, and he is facing the right direction, he is usually OK.

He joined the Whanganui-based Marangai Archery Club, owned by Rob and Maureen McMillan, in October last year.

It proved the right move, as he has enjoyed a string of successful performances in the last few months.

That includes a bronze medal at a gold star tournament in October, a perfect round from 30m at a meet in Palmerston North in December, and in January he competed at the national championships at Trentham Archery Club.

It was a week-long competition where even the top archers struggled with the wild weather, but Ireland did enough to add two more badges to his collection.

Sport has always played a major role in his life, having previously competed in powerlifting at the Special Olympics, and also participated in discus and shot put competitions.

Archery has become his primary focus, but it is an expensive passion to follow.

Each of his arrows used for competitions costs $80, and the bow itself is worth an “untold amount”.

He is hoping to find sponsorship to help him advance his skills and reach the highest levels of the sport.

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