TRAINING FOR THE SMALL ISLAND GAMES | Darrin Henry
Instead of a Saturday morning lie in, a small, dedicated group of five youngsters are up early, training in the sport of rifle shooting on St Helena and trying to hit a one centimetre bullseye, 50 metres away.
They are not aided by telescopic sights. There are no bipods to stabilise the 6kg rifles over the 60 shots. There is a breeze; dust is in the air and plenty of glare on this bright summer’s day.
This is the tough side of sport, the hard slog, essential for any hope of success. There is no glamour or social attraction to being here; no phones, no facebook, no music – just quiet determination.
The shooters have been training up to three times a week for the last four months, hoping to make selection for the Natwest Island Games, taking place this year on the Channel Island of Jersey. The Games are held every two years.
For nearly 3 decades shooters from St Helena have been internationally handicapped by inadequate local facilities, most notably training on a 25 yard range when the actual competition is shot at 50 metres.
Youth Training In Rifle Shooting On St Helena
Pat Henry runs the Jamestown Rifle Club and over the last two or three years has volunteered much of his time training youth shooters. When three of the club’s youngsters were selected in early 2014 for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, Pat decided experience of shooting at 50m was crucial before leaving the island.
The St Helena National Trust allowed a temporary training range to be set up inside High Knoll fort, an area closed to the general public since part of the outer walls collapsed a few years ago. The Trust continues to lend their support ahead of Jersey 2015.
Madolyn (20) and her brother Jordie Andrews (16) both have the experience of Glasgow 2014 under their belts. Madolyn, a Teller at Bank of St Helena, is now training to compete in the 3P (three position) discipline and highlights ammunition quality as a problem. “On St Helena we don’t have much choice of ammo and sometimes it’s faulty.”
Fingers Crossed For Team St Helena Selection
Jordie has been working as a mechanic for the last six months; he’s been shooting for over three years. “It’s a good sport, it relaxes you, but it’s also a good hobby.”
Retrieving her first set of targets to be checked, Jodie Constantine (16) scans the all important puncture holes. “Could be better,” she smiles, before the target is scored. She does better on the second round. Jodie is a student at Prince Andrew School. She began shooting in August 2013 and is working hard to be selected for Jersey. “Oh my God, I would be over the moon, [if selected] I would be so happy.”
Chelsea Benjamin (16) is the third Glasgow ‘veteran.’ She works at a crèche and says shooting is “very relaxing and therapeutic.” For Chelsea, the wind factor is a big challenge on the range. “Sometimes it can be calm at the platform but windy at the target, so you have to be patient.”
Setting Their Sights On Gold
Kayleigh Harris (17) is the “newbie” of the bunch; she’s been shooting for “just over a year.” Kayleigh, an apprentice with the St Helena National Trust, is also training in 3P. “I find getting used to the different positions can be difficult, sometimes,” she tells me.
When Simon Henry and Carlos Yon won gold and silver medals at the last Island Games in Bermuda 2013, it was a welcome boost for a sport that often lives in the shadows of football and cricket. St Helena also benefitted from the international exposure this success attracted.
Sharp Shooting Accuracy
I’ve tried rifle shooting on St Helena a few times myself and while it’s not for me, (it’s much harder than it looks) I have absolute respect for these youngsters’ dedication, and more importantly, their ability. Examining the targets after the sessions I am stunned by their accuracy; the one centimetre bullseyes are peppered with bullet holes.
Shooting equipment and kit are expensive and training conditions aren’t ideal. A new rifle starts at approximately £1,900; both Chelsea and Madolyn have bought their own. Jodie has been loaned a rifle and the other two belong to NASAS. Ammunition is a recurring cost, borne by each shooter, with an average of 130 shots per week costing £26, well over £1,000 a year. It’s a hefty outlay, both in financial expense and time; an unusual but positive case of youth investing in both themselves and their island’s prospects. No doubt the five will be hoping this commitment brings rewards.
Anxious eyes will be on the selectors when the team is announced shortly for Jersey 2015.
I’m planning to visit St. Helena later this year, and as a shooter I could not help looking to see if you had a shooting club.
I’m impressed, you certainly have a keen and thriving membership, but I couldn’t help thinking that you could perhaps do with a 10m. air weapons range?
An article in last night’s Jersey Evening Post lead me to this site. I’m delighted to read that shooting is indeed progressing on the island, as I was responsible for the original “Get the Saints back into the Island Games” appeal in when they were held in Jersey in 1997 and also arranged for rifles and shooting equipment to be shipped out some years ago. Shooting used to be my sport too, so I have a real interest. I shall try to find out more about what is needed and perhaps we can help further?
I look forward to meeting the team when they arrive in Jersey this summer. Let’s just hope that the weather is better than the record cold temperatures we had back in 1997! I had to lend every sweater I possessed to a shivering Saints team. Don’t worry: we’ll be complaining about the heat this time…
Good luck to all.
Hi guys, in my element, early morning coffee and your blog to read. As always I enjoy the work you guys produce. Last year I followed the Saint team during the commonwealth games, I encouraged my work colleagues to support them also, we would record the events and then watch them in our coffee breaks. I was so proud of the team and it was such a fantastic platform from which to launch the ” Saint brand” and to receive positive feedback from the National press. The point I’m making is the games are a great opportunity for young people, it gives them exposure to the outside world but also healthy competition, look what it’s done you have “newbies” arriving to train, but also instilled discipline in the veterans. I think we have to congratulate the coaches, people who have taken time to invest in these young people, the shooters for being dedicated, the community for getting behind them and supporting them. This leads me on to my next point. Funds, I think it is a shame that the club/individuals have to supply their own equipment, I thought sponsorships would have flown in from big companies to support our athletes – obviously not! I really hope the rifle club goes from strength to strength, I had hoped the Commonwealth Games would have inspired other sporting events to take off like shooting has, for I feel it is a great opportunity for young people to have something to hold on to, discipline of a sport can detract from getting into trouble with the law, promotes a healthy life style and like you said is therapeutical. 👍
Thanks Rachael, lovely feedback. We were only watching three of the youngsters training again two nights ago, standing motionless aiming the gun for an hour’s endurance training for the Standing poition of 3P (they do take a few seconds break every four or five minutes). It is impressive to witness their dedication. I suspect more sponsorship will come if the shooters continue to apply themselves and have a good showing in Jersey. I think Sure and Bank of St Helena have already been involved in some sponsorship of St Helena shooting though.
Rachael, thanks for your comment its nice to know someone recognised the dedication and commitment among our youth.
over the last tens years I have met and become great friends with the shooters from St Helena,what I have noticed is that you have come a long way since I first met Simon Henry in Rhodes and loaned him one of my guns,I am impressed by the way you encouraged youngsters to participate in shooting are producing some very good shooters.
Having met Patrick in the Comonwealth games in Glasgow,It was good to see him coaching and helping the team in their first Games.
I am looking forward to meeting you all in Jersey at the Island Games
Thanks for your feedback Richard. The support from people like yourself has been key to helping St Helena improve when it comes to shooting, so thanks for everything. The team have just finished another 2 days of training on the weekend, so continuing to work hard. We’re excited about Jersey as much as them 🙂
Excellent piece. S
Iâm so glad they keep this traditional sport going and for all the volunteers that run it.
I enjoy the blogs.
Great photography as always.
Thanks for the comment Joyce. The sport has come a long way in recent years. The Jamestown Rifle Club is going strong with well supported members nights each week, since it relaunched in 2008. But it’s pleasing to see young people also becoming so involved. Bodes well.
This is actually real, this is what we do in our own time after studying in school and after work. Thanks to What The Saints Did Next to share with all who follow your link, an excellent exposure.
Good luck to the shooters for selection.