WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 18, 2011) -- Sgt. Michael Lukow won the silver medal in the archery competition Nov. 17 at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Originally from Alamosa, Colo., 25-year-old Lukow was the only active-duty Soldier competing in the games. He had been injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2008 and wears a brace on his left foot. His right foot was amputated.

"That's part of why I picked up archery in rehab," Lukow said, "so I could get up walking and get used to it ... so (the prosthetic devices) don't bother me anymore."

After two years of competition, archery has helped him quite a bit.

"Instead of just sitting around during off time doing nothing, I was out shooting and walking and moving and staying active, so it helped me heal and get on a little bit quicker," he said.

The Army World Class Athletic Program, or WCAP, has helped, too.

"I really love being with WCAP. They set it up so my coach, Randi Smith -- the national Paralympic archery coach -- works directly with me in Salt Lake City, Utah, so I progress at the pace I need to," he said.

WCAP also ensures he gets anything required for training.

"I send them a list, and if they okay it, that's what I get," Lukow said.

Archery, a medal sport since the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960, allows athletes with physical disabilities to showcase their shooting precision and accuracy either standing or in wheelchairs, depending on disability.

Competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation, limb loss or spinal cord injury, to those requiring a wheelchair, and to those with cerebral palsy, brain injury or stroke.

The format of competition is identical to the Olympic Games, where archers shoot 72 arrows from a distance of 70 meters at a target of 122 cm. A perfect score is 720.

"We ended up shooting 144 arrows for qualification on the first day and then went into eliminations the next day," he said, adding there was one match for the bronze and another match for the gold and silver.

Besides competing -- this year he's completed 10 competitions -- he exercises by doing a lot of balance and stabilizing workouts.

"But pretty much I stand and shoot my bow. It's 54 pounds all day long," he said, referring to the pounds the bow is rated at.

Lukow uses a Hoyt GMX Riser recurve bow with Hoyt 990 limbs. These limbs are 44 pounds of pull but he adjusts his to 54 pounds. He also uses a Shibuya sight, the top archer's choice around the world.

Currently his goal is to win Paralympics gold, but with about three years remaining on his Army contract, he hasn't decided on whether he'll stay in.

"If I get out of the Army, I'm looking at getting a teaching degree in history," he said.

As a married man with his wife, Nikita, his dreams for the near future are simple.

"I enjoy the experience (of competition) and look forward to more tournaments," Lukow said.