Jeff Fabry is one of the world’s best archers. He’s a five-time Special Games world champion, a three-time Paralympic medalist and he’s aiming for gold at the 2012 Olympics in London this summer.
What makes his talent unique is that Fabry, who has only one arm, has mastered the art of firing arrows with his teeth. Your dentist might advise against it, but Fabry, who will compete on the U.S. Paralympics Team in London, says his chompers are holding up just fine.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years and my teeth still look and feel the same the first day I started. Everything is going good, luckily,” Fabry said.
But the road to firing arrows with precision was not a straight one. At 15, Fabry lost his arm and a leg in a motorcycle accident.
“My buddies were out hitting the hills hunting and I was stuck at home and I was like, no, I don’t like this, so I figured out a way to shoot and it happened to be with my teeth,” he said.
Fabry pulls the arrow back by biting on a mouthpiece that he made from a nylon dog leash.
“It was trial and error to find what I considered to be the perfect mouthpiece, where I could be proficient,” he said.
Fabry is sharing his passion with our armed forces. He teaches the sport he loves to members of the Wounded Warriors Project, the nonprofit whose mission is to help injured service members cope in civilian society.
“What I’m really proud of is being able to work with our vets who are coming back from the sandbox with different disabilities,” he said.
Jim Castaneda, a member of the Wounded Warriors, said he is thankful that Fabry introduced him to the sport. While serving in the Navy and stationed in the Philippines, Castaneda suffered a traumatic brain injury and a stroke.
“It’s changed my life completely … I found something that I can do and I really enjoy it and love something now,” Castaneda said.
“I’m not just sitting there anymore, like watching my life go by and feeling sorry for myself. Now I’m actually getting up and doing something for myself and trying something else.”
That kind of feedback is a bull's-eye for Fabry.
“That makes me feel good about myself,” Fabry said. “I got hurt before I could join the military, and this is kind of a way that I can give back to my country by helping our heroes.”
Will Wilson, who works for Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy’s Wounded Warrior Program, says Fabry is a coach and mentor for his team.
“Jeff is absolutely fantastic. He has a great demeanor and is able to communicate clear and concise direction,” Wilson said.
Fabry is gearing up to coach Team Navy Coast Guard in archery at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. Teams from the Marines, Navy and Coast Guard, Army and Air Force compete against each other in a U.S. Department of Defense competition that is similar to the Olympics.