-sport deserves more recognition,visibility and participation
By Troy Peters
Though many might not be aware, rifle shooting is a sports discipline that has given Guyana prominence in regional competition.
Cricket and professional boxing might have made this country famous internationally but rifle-shooting has also kept this country’s flag flying high for many years at the regional and even international level. The sport was first introduced to Guyana back in the early 1790’s by a regiment of British soldiers stationed here and was formalized in 1865 with the establishment of the Demerara Rifle Club.
It then became the British Guiana Rifle Association (BGRA) but is now known as the Guyana National Rifle Association (GNRA).
From its early beginning, local rifle shooters have always been “on target” bringing laurels to Guyana against fierce competition from other Caribbean territories much like cricket.
The trend continues even today as Guyana’s riflemen currently hold the West Indies Fullbore (rifle-shooting) championships following their triumph at both the long and short range competitions in Jamaica last year when they defeated nemesis Trinidad and Tobago and some of the other leading contenders Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and hosts Jamaica in the regional championships. Guyana’s outstanding performances at this level dates back to 1928 when our riflemen were victorious in the regional competition then known as the Anchor Cup.
Many Guyanese may not have heard of the sport before because it is not a spectator sport in the region because of obvious reasons.
But lately, the sport has had a fair amount of media coverage with the local team maintaining their excellent showing both locally and on foreign soil.
The GNRA is divided into two sections – the full-bore, (rifles) and the small-bore (handguns). Most of the local competitions take place at the Timehri Rifle Ranges although the small-bore section utilizes the range at the Police Headquarters at Eve Leary for most major events.
Before the Timehri Rifle Ranges were established, shooting was held at the Thomas Lands Ranges which were at the time classified as the best in the Caribbean.
The Thomas Lands Ranges were later converted to what is now the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) headquarters, Camp Ayanganna.
The Timehri Ranges were established during the Second World War by American Military stationed here from 1939-1945.
It was hardly used after the American troops left until shooting resumed almost 30 years later when in 1969, the GDF gave members of the GNRA permission to practice for local and international competitions.
The Timehri Rifle Ranges are acclaimed to be advantageous only to the experienced riflemen because of the peculiarities of its conditions.
Some of the top shooters from around the world find Timehri a tough nut to crack because of its wind factors and natural elements including the sandy terrain and sometimes unfavourable weather.
Veteran shooter Neville Denny, who recently retired from active duties as vice president of the GNRA and who also served as president of the West Indies Fullbore Council, believes that Guyana’s shooting is in capable hands. However Denny believes that new blood needs to be injected into the sport if it is to survive. Denny, a former police officer who served on the local rifle shooting council for over 40 years, is optimistic that Guyana shooters could excel at the Olympic Games if given the chance and is encouraging the new breed of shooters to aim for the 2012 Olympics in Great Britain where the sport has its genesis.
Bisley, in the United Kingdom, is the Mecca of international rifle shooting and most shooters from around the world including Guyanese travel to there for the annual shooting championships in the summer.
While many civilians have become active in the sport, the military is still very much involved both locally and internationally.
Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force Commodore Gary Best, is the current President of the GNRA, and this has been the trend over the years with the head of the armed forces serving as president of the organization.
Though female membership was and still is infrequent, Guyana boasted a few top female shooters in the past and they included Ms. Christine Bernard, wife of Col. Bernard, Ms. Olga. D’Arguella and Ms. Forte.
Several male shooters have stood out over the years both regionally and internationally and they include Major Manley, C. Archer, C.C. Allen, Mohamed Alli, J. A. Sutton, Cecil Das, Maurice Yong, and Denny. In more recent times shooters like Ransford Goodluck, Richard “Dickie” Fields, Mahendra Persaud, Lennox Braithwaite and Paul Slowe have come to the fore.
Both Braithwaite and Goodluck have been named among Guyana’s top male sports personalities with Braithwaite copping the National Sportsman of the Year Award in 1988, while Goodluck was voted Sportsman of the Year in 2005 after being runner-up on two occasions in 1995 and 1998.
If you are prepared to endure five hours of harsh weather conditions then you will enjoy the fine artistry and marksmanship of rifle shooting, a sport that deserves much more visibility and participation.