Australia

Paralympian builds archery range to keep gold medal dream alive

The pandemic has forced the closure of archery ranges and clubs around the world, stalling many Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls’ preparations for the Tokyo Games. 

But Paralympic bronze medallist Jonathon Milne has taken matters into his own hands, setting up his own 50-metre archery range.

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“Everything was shut last year,” the Australian Paralympic archer said. 

“Not many archers had access to a full 50-metre range to be able to train. 

“We will just have to see what happens on the day of competition.

“I am lucky I have a friend who has a factory in the Blues Mountains. 

“He let me set up an archery range so I have perfect conditions day or night to shoot. 

“It was a blessing in disguise for me. When everything’s been locked down, I’ve been training five or six days a week, so I got a lot better with the lockdowns.”

At the Rio Paralympics, with Milne still fresh to the elite para-archery scene, he came away with a bronze medal. 

Now, approaching Tokyo 2020, the 35-year-old is aiming higher. 

“The scores I am shooting now, if I’d done that in Rio 2016 I would have walked away with the gold medal easily,” he said. 

“My goal is to improve on bronze.” 

His journey to becoming one of the world’s best was anything but easy, though.

Two days before Christmas 2012, a freak accident at his family beach home on the New South Wales Central Coast left him paraplegic. 

“I was standing with my feet in the water and dived in through a wave, my chin clicked down to my chest and that’s what broke the C-7 vertebrae in my neck,” he said.

Jonathon’s Milne’s injury led to his love of the bow and arrow.(

Supplied: Paralympics Australia

)

His wife Sarah was there and saved his life, before he was airlifted to hospital and doctors confirmed the extent of his injuries. 

“I rolled over [in the water] and said to her, ‘I’ve done something to my neck. Help me float,’ [then] lifeguards came down and put the board under me,” Milne said.

“At the hospital I faintly heard, going off the MRI, that I’d never walk again and never have full use of my arms.”

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It was a life-changing event by any measure, but Milne’s fortunes would change again after a chance encounter during rehabilitation.

An archery range near the hospital helped set him a new target. 

“When I started it was just an excuse for me to get out of rehab, a hobby, just something to have a bit of fun with, and I started shooting some pretty good scores,” he said.

“Being stuck in a rehab facility and not being able to do anything or burn off any energy, it was getting to me.

“A few of the better archers saw me shooting some pretty good scores and said, ‘You should have a go at competing.'”

That hobby turned into a National Championship win in 2015, fourth place in that year’s World Championships and, a year later, he was on the biggest stage of them all, the Rio Paralympics. 

“Jono is the most amazing athlete I have ever seen compete,” Paralympics Australia chef de mission Kate McLoughlin said. 

“He is just so cool under pressure, just unflappable and amazing to see in action.”

Not content with simply competing, Milne soon turned to sharing his talents, working in an archery store in Sydney and coaching others. 

Milne’s mother, Rachel, said it was this character trait that helped him achieve his goals.

Man with his Paralympic ticket to Tokyo
Jonathon Milne with his mother Rachel and father Keith after receiving his ticket to Tokyo.(

Supplied: Paralympics Australia

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“I am very proud, not just of his achievements, but probably mostly his character,” she said.

“For Jonathon to have risen to this level, it only gets better.”

Milne believes the adversity he has faced has helped him as an athlete.

His injury has also given him a new perspective and appreciation of life.

“I have travelled more in the wheelchair than I ever did out of it, places all over the world,” he said.

“It (becoming paraplegic) hasn’t been a bad thing for me, even though there’s some things I can’t do anymore it’s opened up a lot of things that I never thought I’d get to do.”

Winning a gold medal would be a bonus. 


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