Real Life

I can shoot a bullseye with my big toe!

My incredible feat with my feet made me famous!
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Shannen Michaela, 23, from the Gold Coast, Queensland, shares her story:

Flicking open my laptop, I started scrolling through YouTube videos.

It was 2016, I was 17, and I was searching for a new discipline to add to my circus skills.

Training to be a circus performer, I could already do lots of acrobatics and contortionist stunts, but what I really wanted was to do something rare, that not many other people could do.

“Oh, what’s this?” I said, as a video caught my eye.

It was a clip of a circus performer shooting a bow and arrow – with her feet!

My mother, Marie, looked over my shoulder.

“That looks hard, but I reckon you could do it,” she said.

Shannen was looking to try something different (Image: supplied)

So, I bought a bow and arrow off Gumtree, then went straight to my circus school to start practising.

I was already good at handstands so the idea was that I’d stand on my hands then shoot the arrow using my toes.

For my training, I didn’t even bother trying to shoot it with my hands, I went straight to the feet!

But it was super challenging.

I clutched the bow and arrow between my toes and at first, could barely get it to shoot one metre.

But I kept at it, clocking in several hours a day.

With most acrobatic and circus work, the magic’s in the effort, so along with practising my bow and arrow skills, I did weights and yoga to stay strong and flexible.

I dreamed of being a full-time performer so I kept it up and by the time I left school, I could shoot a bullseye from around 10 metres away.

“That’s incredible,” my coach encouraged.

The world record was shooting a bullseye at 12 metres so I was determined to beat it someday.

Shannen practising (Image: supplied)

After school, Chayne Hultgren, known as The Space Cowboy – a freak show and circus performer famous for death defying stunts – offered to mentor me.

I joined him at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2018 and had my own little side show where I performed acrobatics, contortion tricks and foot archery.

We did a lot of shows and it was boiling hot.

“I’m worried about my toe grip,” I told Chayne, nervous the bow would slip when I became sweaty.

“Sandpaper the skin between your toes to cause friction,” he suggested.

I was determined to make it work so I took his advice.

Clenching my teeth, I sanded the skin until my toes bled.

It was painful but I kept performing and in time the flesh between my toes toughened up, giving me a much better grip.

After that, I travelled around the world with my act, doing street performances across Australia, the UK and Europe.

It drew huge crowds and I earned good money.

My biggest draw was always the foot archery.

The audience loved it!

Keeping audiences entertained (Image: supplied)

After 18 months, I came home to the Gold Coast, then COVID hit.

Undeterred, I started performing my acts on social media and within six months I’d attracted over a million TikTok followers.

You have more ability in your foot than I do in my entire body, one person wrote.

Staying at a property away from the city, I had the time and space to really strengthen my foot archery skills.

Eventually, I could shoot a target further than 12 metres so I contacted the Guinness World Records to find out what I’d need to do to enter.

They don’t send a representative to witness anymore but there was a long list of boxes to tick.

The feat needed to be filmed from different angles and several people had to witness it.

The distance had to be measured by a qualified surveyor.

On August 15, 2022, with all that in place, I went to a tennis court where I’d make my attempt.

It amazed so many people (Image: supplied)

At first, I did the trick at 15 metres – three metres more than the current record.

“I reckon you can do better than that,” my friend, Sunny said.

So, we put the target back a bit further.

Eventually, after about six goes, I managed to nail the bullseye from 18.27 metres, upside down, balancing on my hands while holding the bow with one foot and pulling back the string with my toes.

“You did it!” screamed Sunny, running to hug me.

We were all laughing and cheering.

I sent all the information to Guinness World Records to verify it.

Finally, five months later, in January 2023, I was up late one night when I received an email from them.

Congratulations, the email read. You are now a world record holder.

Shannen set a record with her skills (Image: supplied)

I was so thrilled and relieved.

This feat had been several years in the making!

Now, when my act’s introduced, the host can say I’m a world record holder.

It’s great street cred!

These days, I work full-time as a content creator on social media.

Other tricks I’ve performed include shooting an arrow with my feet at a moving target strapped to a remote controlled car while doing a handstand on a skateboard.

The sky’s the limit for me!

I’ve dedicated so many hours to this seemingly useless and bizarre skill but at least now I can say that I’m the best in the world at it.

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Photos by Getty Images

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