Team USA’s Andre Shelby to defend archery title at Paralympics

Team USA’s Andre Shelby to defend archery title at Paralympics


Day after day, week after week, Andre Shelby wheels his way along the path near the St. Johns River. 

The bows and the arrows and the targets are there. He unloads and assembles the bow, gathers the arrows, wheels over to his next stop and places the target, then gets ready to take aim, again and again.

Nearly two decades after an accident that changed his life, the Jacksonville resident is heading to Tokyo this month is a chance to defend his gold medal at the Paralympic Games.

A quest for gold, made in Jacksonville.

“If you’ve got a dream or something you’re really shooting for, don’t give up on it,” he said. “There’s people that will help you along the way. There’s so much support out there.”

Shelby, 54, is scheduled to depart for Japan on Wednesday ahead of his second archery competition at the Paralympics, traditionally held during the same year and in the same city as the Olympic Games.

In Tokyo, Shelby will be one of two Northeast Florida residents on course to represent the United States, along with Daryl Walker in the Paralympics sport of goalball.

It’s a routine he’s kept up for years — one year longer than originally anticipated, after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the Paralympics back into 2021, just as the Olympics endured a similar delay.

In 2016, he didn’t know what to expect.

In 2021, he returns as a gold medalist and reigning champion.

Shelby still thinks back to that deciding round in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, entering his final round, anxiously watching the standings with the United States team’s coach and suddenly realizing just how high his score had risen.

“We kind of looked at each other like, ‘Wow, I have a medal, right?'” Shelby recalled. “And my coach said, ‘Yep. Win or lose [in the final round], you’re going to win a medal.'”

Shelby made no mistake. His final round brought home the gold.

Paralympic archer Andre Shelby takes aim from his wheelchair at Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park.

ROAD TO THE PARALYMPICS

In his early years, long before the Paralympics entered his radar, Shelby spent plenty of time in the athletic world. 

He competed in a multitude of sports, ranging from baseball to football to tennis, while growing up in Indiana. That discipline and drive for physical fitness ultimately led him toward a career in the U.S. Navy.

Then, in 2003, everything changed.

He was riding a motorcycle in Virginia when he was involved in a crash that severed his spinal cord. In an instant, he had become paralyzed from the chest down.



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