South Norfolk Air Rifle and Pistol Club
On Sunday 10th November, Gary Mitchell and I set off to the South Norfolk Air Rifle and Pistol Club in Attleborough. It was the final day of the Norfolk County Rifle Association’s Open 10m Air Rifle and Air Pistol Meeting, incorporating the Norfolk County Championships. This was a three-day event, held on the 8th, 9th, and 10th November.
Until 2001, Carole Darnell was a healthy, able-bodied woman. Then, when she was 37 years old – and for no apparent reason – Carole collapsed. She was hospitalised and diagnosed with a progressive neurological disorder.
Now relying on a wheelchair for mobility, and looking for a new hobby, Carole went along with her partner, Chris Cook, to St Michael’s Rifle and Pistol Club in King’s Lynn. Chris was a keen rifle shooter, but when Carole had a go at rifle shooting, she wasn’t inspired.
“Then I tried shooting pistol, and I was hooked. This was the sport for me.”
Just months after Carole bought herself a competition Walther pistol, she became Norfolk Ladies’ Champion – a title she held for several years.
Through her performance in postal competitions, Carole came to the attention of the Eastern Region Training Squad; and at the Welsh Championships, she was picked up as a promising disabled shooter.
Carole began training at Stoke Mandeville, and for two consecutive years held the title of British Disabled Ladies’ Champion. However, at international level, her disability didn’t fit the classification system. She wasn’t disabled enough to compete at international level, yet her disability was severe enough to be a handicap in able-bodied competition.
Having arrived at this barrier to ongoing progress in competitive shooting, Carole had to re-evaluate her situation. She wondered about coaching. The more Carole considered the idea of coaching, the more certain she became that she’d be good at it.
She was right. Chris Dickenson, the club’s Competition Manager, told me, “Carole’s great with working with people and enjoys teaching a sport she is so passionate about.”
After qualifying as a coach, Carole became a national coach for disabled shooters, and she coached able-bodied shooters at county level.
UK’s 1st regional training centre for para-sport shooting
In 2013, Carole was approached for help.
“I was asked if I’d consider starting up a disabled shooting club. There was nowhere in Norfolk for disabled people to shoot – in fact, there was nowhere that was accessible with a hefty wheelchair.”
Carole, along with her partner, Chris Cook, and mum, Merle Darnell, established the UK’s first regional training centre for para-sport shooting.
“We were two units down from where we are now. There were four firing points, and one of those was a hatch, so people could get through to the loo.”
The club’s first airguns were bought from Pellpax!
Although the new club provided opportunities for many disabled shooters in the area, membership was low. Without a reasonable income, it wasn’t possible to grow the club and to develop. So, five years after founding the club, Carole decided to include able-bodied shooters, transforming the South Norfolk Air Rifle and Pistol Club into a truly inclusive shooting community.
“We’ll let anyone in,” Carole said cheerfully.
Chris Dickenson, the club’s competition manager, is really keen to increase the number of face-to-face competitive shooting opportunities within the county.
“It’s lovely to see people come out of their shell,” she told me. “Some of our disabled shooters first come to us at the club with low self confidence. It’s amazing to see how powerful sport is in transforming people’s lives.”
The Olympic Charter
The more contact I have with people in the world of target shooting, the more evidence I see of the sport’s innate connection with the fourth fundamental principle of Olympism:
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
In support of this principle, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched the Sport for All programme, which was adopted by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF). Shooting Sport for All has introduced the Supported Rest discipline for seniors. This means that anyone over the age of 56 is permitted to rest their rifle barrel or pistol grip whilst taking 30 shots.
Ray Hart, who took the gold medal for Supported Rest Pistol, cheerfully refers to this discipline as “old man shooting”. (I’ll leave you to muse on that concept.)
Air Rifle (60 shots)
Gold Olivia Hill 567
Silver Ellie Folkard 549
Bronze Jessy Lodge 498
Supported Rest Air Rifle (30 shots)
Gold Peter Bell 280
Silver Paul Budd 272
Bronze Colin Allison 252
Bronze John Lane 252
Air Pistol (60 shots)
Gold George Mees 544
Silver Tim Fawcett 540
Bronze Janis Purins 536
Supported Rest Air Pistol (30 shots)
Gold Ray Hart 273
Silver John Lane 272
Bronze Colin Allison 262
Thank you SNARPC!
It really was a pleasure to meet the members of the South Norfolk Air Rifle and Pistol Club and some of the weekend’s competitors. We were made to feel very welcome and involved.
As if the lovely company wasn’t enough, Gary and I left with a plate of homemade cakes!