WHEN Phil Tranter lost most of his sight due to diabetes more than ten years ago, his life was turned upside down.
Not only did he have to come to terms with not being able to see no more than 3ft, Phil lost his job, his house and his car.
It was a blow for a man still in his 40s and, still coming to terms with it all, he went to the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, a place that offers opportunities, friendship and support to people like him.
Although he actually visited for a computer course, what he didn't know was that the centre would steer him towards a previously unthought-of hobby that has made the years since so much more satisfying.
One day, a newsletter from the SRSB pricked his interest. It mentioned archery classes for the visually impaired in Sheffield.
“I thought I'd have a go at, I wasn't doing anything else, so I went along,” says Phil.
The father of one, whose only real previous sporting involvement was fishing, found he had an aptitude for it and has never looked back.
More than a decade on, Phil has progressed to become one of the best visually impaired archers at his discipline.
He not only shoots for Rotherham's Chantry Bowmen Archery Club, he is part of the GB Para Archery set-up.
“I have gone to places I never thought I would,” he says. “I've shot in Pilsen in the Czech Republic, in Den Bosch Holland and in France and I've met lots of new people and made new friends.
“I represent my country, which is one of the things I wanted to do.”
Phil uses special equipment to hit the target with the aid of a “spotter,” his wife, Marina.
He explained: “I can't see the target — it's 18 metres away, it's just a blur – so I use a foot locator and a tripod with a tactile sight on top. You put your hand against it and it acts like a guide where to aim.”
Phil's aim is certainly true.
He's competed at European and World level, won seven national titles and also enjoys shooting at his club, based at Phoenix at Brinsworth.
The benefits of his adopted sport though can be measured not just in victories. It's been a huge tonic for his mental health after the jolt of diabetic retinopathy.
“In my younger life I worked as a shop fitter,” he explained. “I got sick of travelling and ended up at William Cook at Sheffield in the foundry.
“It was a great job and then I lost most of my sight. I was depressed. Diabetic retinopathy happens in older people whereas I was relatively young. The doctor doesn't know what to do with you.”
Now 62, Phil is enjoying life much more thanks to archery.
“Has it been like a medicine for me? It has,” he says. “Any sport is so good for taking your mind off what is going off around you, even if it's tiddlywinks. I would recommended to anyone who is having a bad time. Just don't take it seriously.”
Phil's only regret is that there aren't more visually impaired archers like him at the base in Sheffield. He's the second youngest and the group has sadly lost one of its members to Covid.
Any ambitions to compete at the Paralympics are also on hold because partially impaired archery still isn't allowed.
His hope is that its eventual inclusion in such as the Commonwealth Games could pave the way to that situation changing.
In the meantime, Phil is still working at his craft.
“I started with a recurve bow and now I used a compound bow,” he added. “It is a totally different set-up and I am just getting the hang of it now after three years.
“I'm fourth in the world, which is a horrible place to be but to tell you the truth I'm getting better.
“I was there at Brinsworth last week practising in the snow. I'm dedicated. You've got to be.”
Peter Titterton, president of Chantry Bowmen, said: “Phil is really nice guy and he is also extremely dedicated.
“He works so hard to achieve the standard of archery he wants to shoot at. He has done very, very well.”
Anyone with a visual impairment wanting to try archery is asked to ring Les Culf on 0114 2465515.
Sessions take place on Wednesdays (10am-1pm) at the Spinal Injuries Gym at the Northern General Hospital.
Information on more sporting opportunities at britishblindsport.org