Visually impaired archery was included as a demonstration event at the world para championships in 2005 before making its official debut in 2007 and appearing again in 2009. At this time, the International Paralympic Committee was responsible for regulating para archery.
Years of on-again-off-again appearances at championships ended when rules for the category settled ahead of the worlds in 2019.
“It’s a great journey for visually impaired archery,” said Vanhollebeke. He won gold on the event’s return. “It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.”
As the expertise required to coach blind athletes grows, and more people understand how easy it is to create a simple tactile sight – a standard archery sight on a tripod, as well as some target pins stuck in the ground, is a good start – so will the number of visually impaired archers, both domestically and internationally.
“It’s probably one of the only sports where the gender doesn’t matter, where it doesn’t matter whether you’re shooting a recurve or a compound,” says Prowse, who started archery before beginning to lose his sight.
Steve has experienced the progress that visually impaired archery has made over the past two decades.
And as momentum in the community continues to build, international entry numbers continue to rise and it becomes tougher and tougher to win major titles, the question starts to be asked: Is inclusion at the Paralympics, for this inclusive event, on the horizon?
“Fingers crossed,” says Vanhollebeke. “Maybe we go in 2028.”