- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Christina Jones watched five arrows fly 20 yards and methodically poke a paper target. Plastic feathers touching, four of the arrows centered an orange-sized bull’s-eye Wednesday evening at Diamond Archery. Jones couldn’t have felt better, though she’s shot much better in the past.

The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1Vo8D2A ) reports that a doctor told Jones in December that her left wrist and forearm, which after 16 surgeries has enough scars to resemble a road map, could no longer take the stress of shooting a bow.

“I just lost it, it was the worst feeling. … to be told you can’t do something you love,” said Jones, who vividly remembers sobbing in his office.

She obviously is still shooting a bow. But in place of her left arm she’s drawing the powerful weapon with her teeth.

Jones is not a longtime veteran of the sport, unlike many who gather at the archery range in northeast Wichita. She’s been shooting archery about three years and credits her daughter, Alexandra, with getting her started a few weeks after Jones enrolled her in a beginners archery class. Jones said it was love at first shot.

With the help of Ray Manfull, her archery coach, Jones learned well enough to start winning target competitions and to shoot several deer with her bow. Jones has become so immersed in archery that she now teaches youth classes at the range.

While her heart and mind have been thriving in archery, part of her body was not.

In 2006, Jones wrecked her shoulder, arm and wrist in a fall. She got a complete wrist reconstruction in 2014 and has had two surgeries since Thanksgiving. The stress of drawing the bow, and the intense vibration after the shot, got to the point where Jones risked permanent injury to her left wrist and forearm.

But Jones and Manfull had barely left the doctor after the bad news when her coach pledged they’d find a way for her to continue in the sport.

“I’ve shot with a kid who was born with no arms, so he shot with his feet,” said Manfull, a world-class target archer. “There are all kinds of people (with disabilities) who still learn to shoot a bow.”

Eventually the pair settled on attaching a tab to the bowstring. After gripping it with her teeth, Jones pushes the bow forward, sights the bow and gradually opens her mouth until the string is released.

In some ways it was like learning the sport all over again. In addition to the complexities of the new style of drawing and releasing the string, Jones has had to learn to shoot with the opposite side of her body. Her left arm once held the bow; she now has to do it with her right. She has also been forced to sight the bow using her left eye. That’s difficult because, like with many right-handed people, Jones’ right eye has always controlled her vision.

Jones and Manfull say the last month has been a nonstop trial-and-error session at the archery range. As well as trying a myriad of new shooting techniques, Jones has had to get a different bow for her new style. They’ve experimented with several materials to make the tab that fits her mouth.

“Dog leash,” was Manfull’s answer, when asked the material of her current tab. “We think she can get about 250 shots out of one.”

The new style of shooting can also be a literal pain in the neck, but Jones said she’s adapting physically. Many of the problems from the fall 10 years ago continue.

“Some of the chronic pain is still around,” she said, “but I refuse to let chronic pain ruin my life.”

Jones is hoping to be able to handle more poundage before deer season this fall. Her accuracy is not what it used to be, but it’s improving.

It’s all going to take time, but it will all happen. Jones said she’s known that since the first time she drew a bow with her teeth, released the string and watched the arrow fly down range.

“The first shot, I just cried,” said Jones, “because he had given me hope. … I’m getting to where I would be proud to stand on a line with other archers and shoot with them.”

Manfull said the pride will be going both ways.

“She’s done really well and everybody knows she has a really, really good attitude. She’s been very patient,” he said. “She’s already proven a lot, to a lot of people.”

___

Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com


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