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Army veteran competes in archery by shooting arrows with her mouth

Extraordinary Archer
Posted at 1:23 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 11:57:11-05

CHICAGO — The world is full of extraordinary people with extraordinary gifts. For one inspirational Army veteran, losing one ability helped her discover an extraordinary gift.

It was a military training accident and then a 2009 stroke that left veteran Babette Peyton paralyzed on the left side of her body.

“I don't walk right now at all," said Peyton. "I'm not able to walk.”

At the time, she thought life was over.

“I wrote my obituary. I wanted them to know who I was, a few things that I had accomplished. Because I read so many things about people, you never knew their life unless you knew them,” she said. “If somebody didn’t know them, they would think they didn't do nothing with their life.”

But intent on not doing "nothing" with her life, seven years ago, the 68-year-old began — as she puts it —"shooting off her mouth" in the world of competitive archery.

“Yeah, I'm shooting with my mouth and shooting two bullseyes,” she said.

Peyton uses just one arm, her neck muscles and the strength of her clenched jaw and teeth to pull back the 45 pounds of pressure needed with the aid of a leather strap on the bow string.

She can hit the target pretty consistently with incredible accuracy.

“With all the challenges I had, I was ranked 57 in the world first time out the pack,” said Peyton. “I had to prove to myself, you know, I could do this.”

“The hardest two things that are true for beginners are one holding the bow and releasing arrow,” said Basil Rhymes is with the Chicago Archery Club.

He recently gave us a crash course in archery at the Kroc Center in Chicago.

“Look at the center of the target and just open up your fingers. That's it.”

It’s not as easy as it looks, which is what makes Peyton’s skills so impressive.

“It amazes me that anybody can shoot like that,” said Rhymes.

Peyton has traveled around the world for archery competitions. With more than 156 medals to her name, she has an impressive archery high score of 299 out of 300.

Now, hoping for sponsorship to train and qualify, she’s set her aim even higher.

“To go and compete and win gold medals in both the Olympics and the Paralympics,” said Peyton.

But winning, she says, isn’t everything as long as you never give up.

“I can go around and I can speak to people. I can them, ‘Don’t give up on life. You might have to do things differently. You might have to do different things, but you can still live.’”