The Roman philosopher Luicius Annaeus Seneca was often quoted as stating Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. That would perhaps be the best descriptor of the results at the annual Nova Scotia Fall Airgun Provincials, held the first weekend of December in Truro, NS. The Cape Bretoners got lucky but it was only because of the countless hours of preparation and diligence that we manifested wins when the opportunity presented itself.
The Airgun Provincials follow strict adherence to the internationally recognized ISSF rule book. An athlete’s ranking at the completion of 2 day of shooting determines their individual placing for the match. It is at this juncture the real match begins. The top 8 match finishers, the best in Atlantic Canada, all head to the firing line for another match; this time against each other. Their scores are now returned to zero and they start again. At the firing line they each have a few short minutes to fire 5 perfectly aimed shots, each athlete keenly aware anything but a 10.9 point ‘bullseye’ will through them way down in the rankings. In the finals, all athletes are capable of perfect scores so the holes in the target are measured down to the tenth of a millimeter away from the bullseye with a 10.9 being a shot perfectly centered in the target. The images of their targets are displayed on a large screen with the audience watching as they shoot. The athletes then turn, facing the audience of spectators and the images of their targets are displayed on a large screen as the ‘new’ ranking of 1st to 8th is read aloud by the announcer. It is at this juncture you start to notice the stress affecting the athletes. The athletes once again turn towards the targets down range and have a short time to fire 5 more precision shots. With 10 shots on target, the athletes turn again to face the audience of spectators and the images of their targets displayed and it becomes apparent stress has had quite an effect on the ranking. Many top competitors go from shooting 10’s to shooting 8.5’s and 9’s while some of the lower placing competitors, that worked too hard to allow stress to take them out of the run for the ‘Gold’, go from shooting 9’s to shooting 10’s. At the most memorable events, there is usually a pronounced shift in the rankings at this juncture and the Fall Provincials proved memorable indeed! It was exciting! Again the athletes fire two more shots and turn and face the audience. Again the targets and rankings are projected on a big screen for all to see. Again the announcer calls out the order but this time the athlete in 8th place leaves the line. And the process begins again with 2 more shots fired, athletes turn and face the audience and the 7th place finisher leaves the line and so on until the winner is determined. This year both the Rifle and the Pistol events were "nail bitters” right to the very end with the top positions going back and forth individuals separated by only tenths of a point!
The Capers this year, tempered by adversity and a determination rarely seen outside of the field of elite professional athletes, shined in both the rifle and the pistol matches. We had a long hard climb to victory but VICTORIOUS our rifle and Pistol Shooters were! The Pistol Team were definitely on their ‘A' game, shooting a consistent, unrelenting match. Tyro (First Time Shooter) Kirk Best, with a whole 3 weeks of shooting experience kept his calm and with the focus of a Zen Master, annihilated most of the other seasoned competitors; all of which had Provincial and National Team experience. Kirk took 5th place overall in the match surprising everyone. It is an inspirational rarity when a previously unknown individual just ‘Shows-up’ and kick the asses of seasoned competitors. Well Done Kirk!
The next best pistol placing for the Metro Rifle and Pistol Club was me, Mike Kelly taking the Silver Medal for second place. I tried my best, shooting one of my best final ever; alas it was not good enough to beat the master. No matter the intensity of my focus there was no way I could outshoot this year’s Gold Medal Winner! When it came down to the final shots I was just ‘outgunned’, I was humbled. The only solace, I was humbled by my friend, one of Metro Rifle and Pistol Club’s own, Joe MacHoll! He was untouchable and has the huge gold medal hanging in his living room that proves it! It is interesting to note Joe only bought an air pistol last summer and this was only his second match with the gun! I‘ll bet with a year of practice Joe will be able to ascertain another ‘Surprise’ victory at nationals! Well done Joe!
As for the rifle shooters, not to be outdone by pistoliers, their finals was every bit as exciting! The real story there was another ‘unexpected’ Cape Bretoner on the podium! A little girl from Marion Bridge, Cape Breton got wind of the event and convinced her parents to drive her up to Truro to compete. Lauren Chettle, a 15-Year-old Riverview High Student, showed up to a Provincial Championship Match, never having shot one before, with no coach, no shooting jacket, no shooting pants, nothing but Mom and Dad in the audience cheering her on and a pellet rifle they had bought for her; she did way better than anyone imagined. Laurens first experience shooting was 2 years ago at the Biathlon training program provided by her Air Cadet Squadron. Soon after the Air Cadets introduced Lauren to shooting she advanced to a Level 4 Distinguished Marksman, winning the Wilfred Hart Memorial Award. Sadly there is no longer any biathlon training venue in Nova Scotia so Lauren convinced her parents to let her try just shooting air rifle. In provincials, her biathlon training became evident as she was running with the top of the pack until an errant shot knocked her out of contention for the Gold Medal. Not one to just give up, as many young people might, Lauren hung in there shooting top scores and finished as the Provincial Bronze Medal winner. Way to go Lauren! We can see many more meals in your future girl!
Al Roland, the Chief Range officer for the event and a well respected, season competitor with over 50 years shooting experience; and a plethora of Provincial and Regional Titles, sang the praises of this year’s Fall Provincials. What stood out most was his comment at the end of the match, “It was the closest and most exciting finals this Province has ever seen; good thing the Cape Bretoner’s showed up!”. Al summed up eloquently what everyone was thinking. It was an awesome match and one of the most exciting I have ever attended.
Full results are available at http://www.sfns.info/past-event-results.html
President Metro Rifle & Pistol Club