Matt Patmore shouldn't be able to walk, let alone win a national shooting championship.
A 1998 motorbike accident left the Yass sporting all-rounder with head-to-toe injuries and culminated in 23 separate surgeries – three greater than eight hours in length.
Now, 18 years down the track, Patmore is preparing himself for a tilt at the American Trapshooters’ Association Grand National event at the pristine, 1600 acre World Shooting and Recreational Shooting Complex in Sparta, Illinois.
The journey from major injury to sporting success has been nothing short of remarkable.
Medical health professionals feared Patmore would never walk again after his motorbike was struck by another vehicle in the late hours of one February night in 1998.
The vehicle's’ impact hurled the St Pat’s College graduate some 20 metres across the highway and resulted in a broken neck, busted ribs, fractures in both legs and feet, short-term memory loss and spinal damage.
An esteemed swimmer and hand-baller in high school and a loose head prop for the Canberra Kookaburras, the accident spelled disaster for Patmore’s sporting ambitions.
Of more immediate concern, however, was his recovery.
Doctors grafted skin from donated limbs from the deceased donor bank, a process he believes not only gave him his leg back but also his life.
Some two-dozen surgeries, ample blood transfusions and plaster casts later, Patmore has a found a way to not only carry on with his life, but excel at a previously untried sport: clay target shooting.
Although growing up on a property where responsible use of firearms was practised, Patmore did not take up the sporting discipline until 2001.
What began as an activity to help distract the brain from his body’s pain snowballed into a passion.
Patmore has represented Australia on five different occasions and will once again being doing so when he heads to America on Monday.
Patmore credits shooting, along with expert medical assistance from renowned surgeons, the support his parents and organ and blood donations, as life-saving therapy.
“Clay target shooting got me on the road to an active life,” he explained.
“The standing helped me to build up my strength and though I was not immediately winning I could see my improvement.
“Clay target shooting is quite an addictive sport and once you taste some success, you strive to get better. It is good for hand eye coordination and it becomes a great way to meet friends.”
It’s also a vehicle for seeing the world.
On top of next month’s trip to the US, Patmore has travelled to New Zealand for competition and has toured much of the Australian countryside in pursuit of success.
He’s achieved plenty of accolades along the way.
Patmore has won four national championships in his time as an all-round sportsman, along with four NSW titles and a Victorian championship. He has competed nationally eight times – on three occasions for rugby union, once for handball and four times as a shooter.
Without doubt, though, his greatest achievement is overcoming life-threatening adversity.
While nearly two decades have passed since that fateful February night, memories of the incident remain.
“I remember being in in the air, thinking ‘I’m not superman. I can’t fly’,” Patmore explains.
“I got hit on one side of the Barton Highway and ended up on the other.
“I thought it was all over. I didn’t think I’d ever get back to a national level in any sport. Even though it was tragic, it could have been worse. There are always people who are worse off.
“If you’ve had trouble, there are always things you can get out and do. Pistol sports are great for that.”
Life’s challenges have taught Patmore two things, above all else: “Guns aren’t always bad” and “Always tick the organ donation box”.
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