Victoria Rumary was in a dark place when she first became a wheelchair user, but since finding her love for archery again she hasn’t looked back and is now aiming to finish in the top spot at the rescheduled Paralympics in Tokyo.
Victoria, 33, from Scunthorpe, was diagnosed with epilepsy from a young age. At 21 she had surgery as her condition worsened. But she developed an infection that attacked most of her joints and parts of her brain.
It left her unable to walk and in a wheelchair, so Victoria, who previously competed as an able bodied archer, went to sell her bows and arrows around four years later. That moment changed her sporting career — and this week she travelled to Tokyo for the Paralympics, which will run between August 24 and September 5.
Victoria told The Lincolnite: “I competed in archery before as an able bodied athlete and shot at the nationals and really enjoyed it, but when I was first in a wheelchair, I didn’t think I could do it again.
“My coach (Tony Drabble) owns an archery shop in Newark and I went to sell my bows. He told me not to be daft and that you don’t pull bows with your legs.
“He also has a shooting range and I started practising. I remember some dark times back then when I didn’t think I could do it any more, but he showed me the light and I started competing locally in Kirton in Lindsey and Lincoln.”
After getting back into the sport, Victoria joined Lincoln Archery Club and later a club in Kirton in Lindsey when she moved to the town last year.
Victoria initially didn’t manage to qualify for the Paralympics via the World Championships, but she won gold at the W1 Women Open Competition in July to secure her spot in the ParalympicsGB squad.
She travelled to Tokyo on August 13 and is currently at a prep camp at Keio University in Tokyo. She is getting ready to move into the Paralympic village in Tokyo on Friday, August 20 and can’t wait for the games to begin.
After shooting training and gym sessions, Victoria will compete in the W1W class with her qualification event starting on August 27.
This involves each competitor shooting 72 arrows and being ranked by score. The top 16 will then go through to a head-to-head knockout competition.
After winning Bronze at the World Championships in 2017 and Silver in the European Championships in 2018, Victoria is hoping to go one better in Tokyo by winning a Gold medal.
She will compete in a wheelchair she has used since the World Championships in 2017, which The Rotary Club of Scunthorpe, the local community and Lions club helped raise over £2,500 towards.
Victoria said: “I am really excited. It’s a little bit different with COVID around, but everyone seems enthusiastic.
“I’ve had lots of messages (from back home) and it’s great so many people are behind me.
“When you see all the (Paralympics) signs up you think, ‘are you really here?’. I think it will hit me more tomorrow (Friday) when we move into the village.
“It is an amazing feeling being here. I’m trying not to get too excited as I’ve got a job to do.”
When asked why she first chose archery and what she loves about the sport, Victoria added: “It’s one of the most inclusive sports as there are so many adaptations people can do to shoot a bow.
“One of the most famous athletes is an American called Matt Stutzman who uses his feet (as he was born without arms).
“I think the sport did a lot for me. I was in a dark place stuck in a wheelchair and didn’t think I could do it, but once I realised I could I started practising and saw light at the end of the tunnel and something to get up in the morning for. I didn’t think I’d be quite here as I just wanted to be competing again, so this is just amazing.”
Victoria is not the only athlete from Greater Lincolnshire in the ParalympicsGB squad as Hollie Arnold, who was born near Grimsby, and Lincoln-born Sophie Wells will compete in the Javelin and Equestrian (Dressage) respectively. Gainsborough’s Jack Hodgson will represent ParalympicsGB in Judo in the +100kg category.
Meanwhile, ParalympicsGB said on Thursday that the highest ever percentage of female athletes will compete at a Summer Games when Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games begin on August 24.
Good luck Victoria, Sophie, Hollie and Jack!