By Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public AffairsApril 30, 2012
CHULA VISTA, Calif. (April 30, 2012) -- U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, archer Sgt. Michael Lukow just missed earning a berth in the London Paralympic Games with a runner-up finish at the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Archery.
Lukow, 25, of Alamosa, Colo., finished second behind Eric Bennett in the men's standing recurve event, which was held April 26-28, at the U.S. Olympic Training Center south of San Diego. Timothy Palumbo, Travis Akin and WCAP Staff Sgt. Steve Bosson rounded out the field. Only the winner goes to London.
"He did extremely well for being as young as he is in the sport and competing against the people he was competing against," said Bosson, 41, of Bellville, N.J. "He has the potential to become probably one of the greatest Paralympic archers we've had. He's already known worldwide. People get shaken when he walks up to the line."
Lukow, however, did not shoot his best at the trials.
"First two days for the scoring rounds, I was about 20 or 30 points below my average, just a rough tournament," Lukow said. "And this final day, I got my groupings back, but I just couldn't get them to group where I wanted them. They kept dancing around the target."
Lukow was unable to dance around an explosively formed penetrator, known as an EFP, in Baghdad, Iraq, that claimed his right foot in January of 2008.
"Doing an escort mission for a lieutenant colonel to go to a meeting, an EFP went off right next to an Iraqi police checkpoint and tore through the door and tore half of my right foot off and embedded all kinds of junk in my left foot," he recalled.
While rehabbing for three years at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Lukow discovered archery as a form of therapy when coach Skip Dawson conducted a demonstration at the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
"He's a really great guy," said Lukow, who had never touched a bow or arrow. "He got both me and Steve into it and coached us for free. It beat checking IDs at the hospital."
Lukow won his first competitive event at the 2008 U.S. Indoor National Archery Championships. In 2010, he began competing internationally in England, where he took fourth place in a tournament against fellow disabled competitors.
In September of 2011, he earned a Paralympic spot for Team USA at a European Grand Prix stop in Stoke Mandeville, England. He also finished second at the 2011 Pan American Paralympic Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and among the top eight at the World Championships in Torino, Italy.
"This whole experience has been great. It definitely solidified that I handle pressure just fine. It's just the technical aspects that I struggle on at the moment. I just need some more experience, some more time shooting."
Lukow's bow already is pointed at the 2013 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, where he no longer will have to contend with Bennett, who will be ineligible for the discipline.
"After December, he can't shoot a recurve with a release anymore," Lukow explained.
Bennett struggled a bit during the last two days of competition in Chula Vista, leaving the outcome in doubt until the bitter end for Lukow.
"It was pretty close," Lukow said. "It's a little disappointing, mainly just because I know I can shoot better than this and I could have beaten him."
Lukow said his best performance would have been good enough to secure the Paralympic berth.
"I'd have had it," he said. "But that's sports."
With only four years invested in the sport, Lukow hopes to compete for a spot in the 2016 Paralympic Games at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"As long as WCAP will keep me in, I'll continue to do it," he said. "Whatever WCAP says, goes. It really is an awesome opportunity. Every time I wake up, I'm like, 'is this really happening?'"
The U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Paralympic Program is available for Soldiers with physical disabilities who demonstrate the commitment and skill to pursue elite-level competitions.
The program provides the support and graining to compete and succeed in national and international competitions, such as the Paralympic Games, while maintaining a professional military career. The program strives to enhance the rehabilitation, readiness and quality of life for injured Soldiers through at least 24 different Paralympic sports.