Sport: Five time Team GB Paralympic Rifle Shooter
What is your impairment?
What do you most love about your sport?
I think it’s the fact that within shooting you can shoot both disabled and able-bodied side by side, because all the equipment that we use is exactly the same, same ranges, same rifles, the only difference is I have to sit rather than stand or kneel. It’s completely equal all the way through, for both men and women, disabled and non-disabled. You’ve got the physical side as well as the mental side to challenge you, especially with the 50m because we do that outdoors, so you have weather conditions to think about as well, it’s an all-round sport that anybody can do at any age as well.
How did you get onto the Paralympic team the first time?
Getting onto the Paralympic team was a little bit of a fluke for me, I had gone to Stoke Manderville Hospital with the Guides Association on a come and try sports weekend as a leader. I was talking to the coach at the time, he hadn’t seen me walk in, so hadn’t realised I was disabled and we were sat chatting and he said “yeah it’s ok, you know your sport, but you’re no good to me.” I knew it was a male dominated sport back then and I said ok no problems, and as I stood up to walk away, he grabbed me and said “you didn’t tell me you were disabled” and I said “well you never asked” and then I got invited to go for a GB trial a few months later. I then passed the trial and was invited to my international in 1991 and a year later I was at my first Paralympics in Barcelona in ‘92. As I say, it all sort of fell in my lap really, I was in the right place at the right time.
What are your experiences of equality in sport?
Inequality is quite low in shooting because it is a case of, women and men shoot side by side, the only slight difference within our sport is that men tend to do 60 shot matches and the ladies do 40 shot matches. I think that’s a historic thing, where they would think women weren’t strong enough and t enough to be able to do 60 shots. But a lot of the competitions we do, we do have to do 60 shots, it’s only when we get to international competitions that it’s segregated out. Within the disability side of things, up until you get to national, complete equality, it’s only when we get to international that we get segregated out and do our own competitions, but quite often the competitions will run concurrent, so we’re there with the able-bodied but we shoot our events, they shoot their events. You can start at the age of sort of 9/10 doing rifle, air, pistol and still be shooting at the age of 70 as long as your eyesight and you’re t enough to do it.
I think sport in general in the 26 years I’ve been on the Paralympics cycle, it has changed considerably, for the better. Each cycle it’s got better with all the funding that we’ve had, Rio was live, the Games you could watch it as it was happening and I think things like ‘The Last Leg’ coming on board, has helped considerably to break down that barrier of “that poor person in the wheelchair” or “look at that poor blind person.” We are being recognised now as athletes in our own right. Unfortunately shooting is a bit out on a limb so we don’t mix with other sports.
Do you think this could be improved?
Yes, there is always room for improvement, people do ask me why can’t the Paralympics and the Olympics join, I don’t think that will ever happen, purely from a logistics point of view and also we are sports people in our own right, so I think we need to have that recognition, whereas if it was all brought together, that recognition would be lost slightly. Another good thing about shooting is we only have two classifications and so it is quite easy for us to do. As long as the media keep covering all disability sports events, not just the major ones like swimming and athletics, then there is always going to be room for improvement, because the general public’s perception and understanding will be so much better and as I say, it’s already improved in the last 26 years that I’ve been doing it.
What was your favourite Games?
First one in Barcelona is always going to be special because it’s the first time, but again being privileged enough to be at London 2012, you can’t beat being at a home Games.