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The Class of 2011

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Write on Target: Paralympic archer shoots for gold in the literary world

A passing comment from a sixth-grade teacher sent Lindsey Carmichael, a senior majoring in history and English, on the road to the Olympics.

When the math teacher overheard her talking with her best friend about the girl’s softball team, he blurted, “I bet you could do archery in a wheelchair.”

Lindsey Carmichael
Lindsey Carmichael

“He just wanted to make me feel better about not being able to play softball and then go on with his day,” says Carmichael, who was diagnosed at age 4 with McCune Albright Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes weak spots in her bones. “But that one comment completely changed my life.”

On a whim, Carmichael and her friend convinced their parents to take them to an archery club near their hometown in Lago Vista. After a couple of weeks her friend dropped out, but Carmichael carried on, driven by her desire to compete.

Now a two-time Paralympian at age 25, Carmichael is one of the world’s greatest archers. In Athens, she set a world record in the ranking round and finished sixth overall. She later went on to win the bronze medal in Beijing, making her the first female archer representing the United States to medal in a singles competition in 34 years.

Unlike most sports that require strong, powerful physiques, Carmichael says archery appealed to her because anyone -– tall, short, heavyset or even one-armed — can compete. The strength, she notes, comes from the mind.

After some bad tournaments in 2005, Carmichael’s self-confidence dwindled, causing her to develop Target Panic, a common phenomenon among archers that causes athletes to falter before making a shot. During a critical match in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, the unrelenting anxiety caused her to miss a shot that would have landed her in the running for the gold or silver.

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