3 points. Just 3 points! Today was the last day of two weeks of shooting of the SA Bisley Open Championship. Rain and thunderstorms were predicted but it stayed clear for us. We started the day with the final team event The Protea International. Protea is a local flower. The Welsh, Ireland, S Africa, SA Provinces, England and the USA were the country’s competing. The range was set for 300, 600 and 900 metres, the most difficult lines of the range. These are the smallest targets. At 300 we lost too many points I felt. I think it was 5. Both the Brits and SA lost 3. Back at 600 we caught up and shot very well. The winds were up and tricky at all metre lines. So it was up to the 900 to tie it up. We were neck and neck with SA and England. But in the end we were 3 points down from SA and England was 1 point above us. What a heart break. But we fought hard. Coaches Emil, Steve and Norm did a great job. I was so nervous this morning. The saying is that as a shooter on a team your only job is to pull the trigger. Target, sight picture and trigger control. The coaches dope the wind. But “just pulling the trigger” is scary. You want to perform well for the team. For me this trip meant a lot. I wanted to do well. Of course I’d love to be chosen for The Palma team for the World’s in 2015 but I just want to keep shooting with them in any matches. My goal for this trip was to learn how the team worked together in Intl matches and to hold hard and keep my elevation. I did my best and I hope they thought so too.
In the afternoon after the team match were the final two strings of the The State President’s Match. The winner of this Agg gets carried in The Chair. The top 102 shooters get to shoot in this 3rd stage. I made the list and we all received a very cool patch. (You can see it in medal’s photo.) We never got to see the final board of results to see where I ended up. I am hoping they will get the SA sight up with final results. The site has not been working for some reason. The winner was Arno Haasbroek of SA. He was carried in the chair and led by the Sword Bearer and a bag piper through the building. He then got to sit in the chair for the entire ceremony. By the way, it was the longest ceremony ever. It was at least two hours long. People were tired, hungry and had been drinking since 3:00. Not a good combo. The bar did run out of beer though at some point which was probably good. The overall Grand Agg winner was Parag Patel of England. Amazing shooting. Lane Buxton came in 5th or 6th overall. Michael Storer won The Jack Mitchelly 300 metre with 10 Vs and David Crandell took the second place with 9 Vs. As for me I get to come home with a few medals as you see in the photo. Not bad for my first time in SA. I also received a pin with the number of merits I won which was 3. The NRA of the US needs to step up. When you win awards at Perry you have to buy them yourself. Not good. They don’t hand out medals except to the winner of each match. IF they want to keep people interested in target shooting or attract new people they need to step it up. They have even cut funding for the teams. But that is another article to be written later.
Highlights and details that stood out. – When the team matches are done, each team does a cheer for the other teams. Then there is a long line up where everyone from the teams shakes hands and congratulates each other. Like a greeting line but it is a congratulations line. At the end of each international match the Brits present a “Dummy” (pacifier) award to a single person who may have thrown a tantrum during the match. They had the guts to present it to General Mac Alexander the SA match director. It was appropriate and he was a great sport about it. I may not have described him well to you yet. He is a very interesting man who has had some traumatic events in his family’s life. You can Google him and get most of the story. He has even written a book. He is a very religious man and reads from the Bible each morning with a prayer to start the match. He has a very commanding voice. Sounds like God calling down from heaven. You respect him. One day at the 900 yard line he came on the speaker and started going on about he as a match director likes to run a match not a shambles. Apparently all of the vehicles were not parked behind the red flag line and were too close and cluttered to the firing line. They were required to be behind the red flag line. We crept in front of it and were not perfectly aligned. He scolded us for a while and said if we did not move them back we would stay until after dark. You had 350 people to ages of over 70 scampering like little scolded children to move the vehicles. It was very funny. The funniest quote of the trip goes to Emil Praslic, coach and head coach of the US Army Marksmanship.
At the end of the shooting day on Friday we had a team meeting to discuss the big match on Saturday morning. Dennis led the discussion and then asked Emil if he had anything to add. Emil first said no and then changed his mind and burst back in. “If anyone touches their guns tonight and cleans them or bore snakes them or changes anything I will wear your face as a ski mask!” I may have to have a shirt printed with this and present it to him at Perry this fall.
I am writing this in the van as all 6 vans are caravanning back to Joburg. It is a gorgeous sunny day and although tired, I am a bit sad to leave Bloemfontein.I am positive the hotel will be thankful we are all leaving. We kept them busy. We will turn in the vans at the airport and Adele from Hunter’s Permits will meet us there. She will get the rest of the team through customs to leave with the rifles and then she will take all of the cases and luggage from Charles and I and babysit them while we go on our next leg of the trip. In the morning we will fly from Joberg to Botswana to our safari lodge and then 4 days later fly to Victoria Falls. I can pretty much guarantee we will not have any wifi so I will be happily cut off from the world for 10 days. We return to the States on the 23rd. Thanks for following our adventures. Talk to you soon!