Archer aims high
Kramer Hoeflich was a keen sportsman before an accident put him in a wheelchair in 2008.
The 20-year-old Mt Wellington man got back into sport this year when he started archery through Parafed Auckland.
He would love to represent New Zealand against disabled and able-bodied archers and looks forward to watching the national indoor archery championships this month to learn from the best.
Mr Hoeflich was raised in Rarotonga and enjoyed playing rugby, football, baseball, volleyball, netball and competing in waka ama and athletics.
He was 15 on the day of his accident when he went to his favourite swimming spot, Black Rock.
Mr Hoeflich, who was training to compete in the South Pacific Mini Games, jumped off one of the many basalt rocks used as diving platforms at the popular beach and hit his head on the sea floor.
The impact fractured and dislocated his neck, causing irreversible damage to his spinal cord, and doctors said he would be paralysed from the neck down.
"We all took it pretty hard. When they first told me I would never walk again I just lay there and cried.
"But I didn't let it get me down. I was thankful to be alive and I had been given a second chance."
Mr Hoeflich came to New Zealand in 2008 for surgery and recovery. Progress was slow but he eventually regained most of his upper body movement.
Archery is a way to get back into sport. It has also improved his strength, state of mind and independence.
He could not pull his arrow out of the target board when he first started but is now able to retrieve it with one hand.
"Every shot you take it's like your first time shooting again. I just love it. It gives me freedom.
"And it's not just a wheelchair sport - I'm really excited about where it can take me."
Trevor Irvine is one of New Zealand's top professional archers and has been coaching Mr Hoeflich.
Archery allows people in wheelchairs to compete against able-bodied athletes and only slight modifications to the length and weight of Mr Hoeflich's bow are required.
"It's an amazing sport for building self-esteem. It has given him a completely new challenge and different outlook on the things he is capable of doing."
Mr Irvine says the sport is a form of escape and he would love to see other people in wheelchairs give it a try.
"When you're shooting, your whole being is wrapped up in it. It's engrossing. It takes your mind off anything else."
Parafed Auckland spokesman Leon Katavich says sport gives people with physical disabilities a chance to be more independent.
The organisation was formed in 1966 to provide sporting and recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities.
Sport has similar benefits for disabled people and their able-bodied counterparts, he says.
"When you're in a chair there's a lot of thinking ‘I don't know if I can do that'. It's intimidating to start off with.
"But it's so social - that's what sport is about for everyone."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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