Anyone who wants an insight into why people compete in the sport of shooting should go on the Olympic website.
It says: ‘Olympic history abounds with tales of athletes who overcame crippling adversity to win gold medals, but Karoly Takacs’ comeback may be the best.
‘Takacs was part of Hungary’s world-champion pistol-shooting team in 1938 when an army grenade exploded in his right hand. Ten years later, he won the first two golds in rapid-fire pistol – after teaching himself to shoot left-handed.
‘In a sport where the bullseye looks about the size of the full stop at the end of this sentence and where shooters compete amid a cacophony of noise and still concentrate on firing between heartbeats, Takacs’ achievement tests the imagination.
‘From just three shooting events at the 1896 Olympic Games to 15 today, the sport has grown steadily. In part this leap can be ascribed to advances in the technology of firearms and equipment, which have led to constant changes in the shooting competition. But it also reflects the passion shooters have for their sport.’
The Cayman Islands has a small band of shooters who compete internationally, headed by Eddie McLean, who almost got to the recent Olympics.
Kevin Schirn is another dedicated follower of the sport who along with McLean is bringing along their latest Caymanian recruit, Shakeina Bush, better known as a footballer. They practice at the shooting range behind the Owen Roberts International Airport.
Bush has been training for nearly a year, even at university in Florida. It’s not regular because of the cost of specialised training and the rounds of ammunition but she’s already shown enough ability to convince McLean and Schirn that there is a lot of potential. You could say she has a sure-fire future in shooting.
Like many shooters, she stumbled on it. ‘I would come out here sometimes and Mr Eddie would always ask me if I was curious over learning to shoot,’ Bush, 20, says. But initially, it did not appeal.
‘One day, I went to the Olympic Committee office and they had a shooting book and that sparked my interest and I started to fall in love with the sport.
‘My brother Hakeem came out here and he was doing a bit with hand guns and of course, being competitive, I ran my big mouth and said I could do better than him.’
McLean took the opportunity to introduce Bush to trap shooting and she immediately ignored the hand guns for that. At the Florida International University the coaches there kept the momentum going.
Over Christmas Bush grabbed every chance to go to the shooting range where under the guidance of Schirn she practiced intensively. ‘I really do like it and my all-time dream is the Olympics. Shooting seems to be a good feed for it and I’m going to stick with it,’ says Bush.
‘I’d love to go to the Island Games but shooting takes a lot of time to perfect. You can get to one level then become stagnant before improving. You need to get in the mid and high 20s to be competitive and I’m working towards it.’
Bush is a national team footballer and recently left the all-conquering Women’s United for Scholars International and has helped turn things round for Scholars who are not as easily beaten now that she’s their midfield general.
‘Scholars are a developing team and it’s a lot of fun working with them. It was not a case of falling out with Women’s United, they have tons of talent there. Premier League, everyone knows that it needs development. Teams are dropping out and getting smaller.
‘Women’s United have plenty of players who can branch off and help other teams and if that happened maybe we would have a league the same size as the men’s. I’ve had my fair deal at winning so I don’t mind playing for Scholars.
McLean is impressed with Bush’s shooting ability.
‘She is in the early stages of shooting but she has that natural ability,’ he says.
‘She has that knack about her that I’ve noticed and I’m excited to train her and hope that sometime in the near future we can have Shakeina representing us. She has a bright future if she stays with it.
‘The ultimate goal is the Olympics and a medal. Even if you come into this game good, you still have to learn it and she has that ability. It’s gonna take a lot, like any other sport. You don’t get a free pass, but she’s willing to do it.’
McLean knows what he’s talking about. An experienced marksman, he missed qualifying for the Beijing Olympics by only two targets.
‘I’m looking forward to competing again. We’ve got the Island Games this year and then the Commonwealth Games next year and then Pan American.’
Schirn is the team manager and assistant coach who competes in the smaller tournaments.
‘I’ve been in shooting for the last eight years and manage more now than compete. The mind has to be clear for the shooting itself.
‘I’m very excited about Shakeina’s prospects, particularly because women’s shooting is a very small crowd. Shakeina has a lot of sporting ability generally, along with her desire to succeed. I think she’ll do very well.
‘It’s early days for her and if we can get her practising enough, she has the potential to go on and be a part of the women’s team which will go a long way to exposing Cayman internationally.
‘Shooting is an expensive sport. She needs her own gun, which costs at least $3,000. From there you have to have special adjustments done which could run to another $1,000 or so. The day to day training is also an expensive thing.
‘When you do track and field or football, it’s just your time you donate, there is not much costs. Here, every time you got practice, you’re spending $50 on ammo.
‘So she will need a lot of sponsorship to get to the level to compete. So we’re hoping that between the Olympic Committee, which has already been very generous and private individuals, hopefully she will find the funding and be able to progress.’
Schirn adds: ‘Shakeina wants to go to this Island Games but the problem is you can’t go to competition without your own firearm and even if she was to acquire one now, to get the licensing and paperwork in place it would be a very tight thing. But we’re looking to the games after that when she’ll have more time to get into training.’