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Vena McGrath

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Member Since: Feb, 2004

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Pan Pacific Masters Games - Gold Coast Queensland - November 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006  12:13:00 PM

by Vena McGrath

The Pan Pacific Games are held bi-annually at the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia.

The Pan Pacific Masters Games are held bi-annually on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, and bring together some 10,000 athletes from Australia and overseas to compete in sports that include badminton, archery, motocross, cycling, netball, softball, shooting, swimming, tennis and water polo.

My brother rang me a few weeks prior to the Games, and told me that he was competing in the pistol shooting competition.  He also said that a local newspaper had interviewed him about the Games and that he had a copy of the story for me.

I knew that Philip had won medals at the Games last time round, Gold and Silver, and that he had competed while I was overseas, in Canberra, coming home with a Gold Medal from the Australian Police and Services Championships.  Philip is 63 years young and takes his sport seriously, spending quite a bit of his spare time after work and of a weekend practicing.

I decided, on the spur of the moment, to go to the Gold Coast and watch him compete (on the quiet without telling him).  I invited my youngest son along for the surprise and began plotting the trip away.  Contacting the Pistol Club on the Gold Coast was my first step, as I had to ensure that we could actually watch the competition and that I had the right venue.  Once that was established and we had an invitation from the Club to attend, I booked our flights.  Next came a booking to park the car in Sydney for the day ($18.00) and the day before we left, a booking for a rental car from Coolangatta Airport for the day.

Interestingly I found it difficult to rent a car for a day from the company I normally rent from at Coolangatta, so had to spend a bit of time online finding a company that would rent for just one day.  The minimum rental was three days.  It appeared strange, as I am sure many business people fly to the Gold Coast and only need a car during business hours.  Greed on the part of the rental company or just a lack of interest in visitors who arenít staying on the Gold Coast for a holiday? 

I left home at 4.45 am, in the dark, and collected my son and 5.15.  He drove us to the parking area near the airport, and they then drove us in a mini bus to the airport, that was just up the road.  We had a bite to eat at the airport and boarded our plane.

On arrival over Coolangatta the weather was foul, and after two aborted landing attempts that had us all a bit frazzled, we were told the plane, because of the conditions and fuel situation on board, would be flying on to Brisbane.  Itís only about a 10-minute flight but a longer drive back.  I donít get airsick, but that day I was feeling nauseous by the time the second aborted landing was completed.

Buses had been arranged to ship everyone back down the coast but I decided to try and change my rental car from the Gold Coast to Brisbane, and we lined up behind people attempting to achieve the same result.  We were not happy campers at all.  However, the people manning the desks at Avis at Brisbane Airport didnít appear to be fazed by the extra vehicles they had to find on the spot, and it wasnít long before we were in a car and on the way back down to the Gold Coast, a distance of some 82 kilometres. 

The weather at Brisbane was fine but about 20 minutes down the road we ran into the rain storms, and vision was limited to just a couple of metres in front of the car.  We drove in and out of this type of rain until finally I saw the Southport signs and we headed to the coast.  Where to go once we reached Southport was a mystery, even though I had the name of the Club and the street.

Men are so strange about asking for directions, it amazes me.  My son was driving as the keratitis in my left eye was playing up big-time, and he drove round the streets hoping, I think, to just stumble upon the Pistol Club.  I eventually talked him into pulling over so we could have a smoke, and I could ring the club. I thought we were on the right road that would eventually lead us to the club, but then again?  The phone call confirmed we were indeed heading in the right direction and two intersections further on we made a right turn and there it was.

The club building was nothing like I envisaged.  A rambling concoction of rooms with flyscreen doors, a concrete floor, and a kitchen/eating area plus a larger room with tables and chairs.  It was wet outside, puddles everywhere, and mud.  We tramped in, introduced ourselves, and were handed ear protection and glasses for my son.  Through a couple of doors and corridors and we were out in the yard, the target area.  We could hear the guns firing as we walked along.

I stood at the back of the firing range scanning the shooters, all dressed differently and with hats or caps on, and glasses and ear protection.  I spotted my brother who was bending down picking up used shells.  He looked over at us, looked away, then looked back, smiled and waved.  He came over quickly, kissed me, shook hands with my son, and wandered back to check the targets way up the end of the firing range.  We stood and watched as he walked away, and wondered how this competition worked.

During the course of the next several hours we stood, sat if we could find a spare seat, and watched the progression of shooters do their stuff.  The yard was extremely wet, and all the matting they had to lie on or sit on was wet.  I felt sorry for all of them, as the light was bad, with showers happening on and off all day.  None of the men were happy with their scores and again, the light and conditions would have made things extremely difficult for them.  My brother spent as much time with us as he could and whilst he isnít a person that shows a lot of emotion, we could tell he was pleased we were there, and of course very surprised.

One of my brotherís friends, John, was competing that day.  John is 82 years young and just amazing the way he got down on the ground and then up again.  I wondered how he would be the next day!  He hasnít been shooting very long but obviously enjoys it, and his wife and sister were there to support him.  I was really pleased that I had decided to have an adventure and fly up unannounced as none of my brotherís family was there to watch him.  Making him happy made me very happy, and my son thoroughly enjoyed the day with his uncle.

Pistol shooting involves firing at targets from various distances on the range.  They begin by firing while lying down facing the targets that are way up the far end of the area.  Each shooter has four targets and they are told how many bullets they are supposed to put in each target, and which of the four targets they are supposed to be aiming for.  They have a set time to fire the number of bullets for the round and any fired after the time finishes, ends up with minus points.  The targets face them as blank boards and then, just prior to being told to fire, they turn and you can see the targets marked on the boards.

Each time a round is finished an official who walks along the targets and sees where the bullets have hit notes the scores.  Once that part is over, the holes in the targets are patched and then the shooters move up the range to the next firing spot.  They have to shoot around pillars, using the left hand and the right hand, from the ground sitting, lying down, and standing and shooting from about waist height I guess.  At all times officials are behind the shooters ensuring they are adhering to the rules. 

Guns are always holstered except when being fired and are emptied of all bullets at the end of the rounds, and examined, prior to being holstered again with the safety on.  Once they load the bullets for a round the safety goes on, again under supervision, and the guns go back in the holsters until they are told to fire.  In the four seconds or whatever the time allowed for that round is, they have to remove the gun from the holster, release the safety, aim and fire the allocated bullets into whatever number targets they are told just prior to firing.  Itís quite demanding of concentration, and remembering all the rules and which targets to shoot at, makes it a tough competition. 

Amongst the shooters in each round, there was a mixture of grades, so not all of the men were competing against each other.  However, each had someone shooting at the same time that was competing with him, and perhaps more than one.  So the stress was on each round and the disappointment showed when they stopped firing and knew that their bullets hadnít hit the mark as well as they could have. 

At the end of the day after competing through the rounds, Philip was awarded a silver medal and a bronze medal.  He was disappointed in not winning gold but said if there had been more men shooting in his group that day, he probably wouldnít have won any medals.  John, the only 80-year plus shooter, won 2 Gold Medals and was extremely happy and proud.  But most of the men felt disappointed with their shooting and some remarked they should burn their guns, as they couldnít remember when they had worse scores in a competition. 

I took a number of photos of Philip and John and was pleased that I had my camera as Johnís wifeís camera was mucking up, and there was no one to take photos of Philip.  I knew that once I arrived home I could email the pics back to my brother, and he in turn could pass them on to John so they would all have a record of the Games for 2006.

My son and I said our goodbyes as everyone left the range, and as Philip had given a lift to another shooter that morning, he had to return home and couldnít spend any time with us.  That left my son and I with 3 hours before take-off, and we headed down the coast a few kilometres, over the border into New South Wales, and went to the Bowling Club at Tweed Heads.  I put about $20 through a poker machine, had a shandy (light beer with lemonade) and then shouted my son dinner.  We wandered on to the airport and flew home without any dramas this time.

I arrived home at midnight after my son drove us to his home first.  I removed the patch from my eye and drove home arriving safely.  Getting up for work at 6.30 wasnít a joy, but I made it through the day, in spite of my bad eye.  The day out had been long and tiring, but well worth the effort.  Doing something to please someone else is a very satisfying feeling, and who knows how long any of us are going to be here in this world?  I only have one brother and he lives over 1,000 kilometres from me and I felt it was important that I make the effort for both our sakes.

Congratulations to all the men who competed that awful day and to the officials, who do a thankless job usually, and the club staff for providing lunch and plenty of coffee and tea.

Vena McGrath Ė November 2006.





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