Eight seasoned South African shooters properly showed their mettle during the Field Target Shooting World Championship and walked away as the leading team among the ten participating countries.
This year, South Africa hosted the 31st Field Target Shooting World Championship and the Proteas team reigned supreme in the heart of the Bushveld.
Field target shooting is an outdoor rifle discipline that originated in the United Kingdom (UK) in the early 1980s and is becoming increasingly popular worldwide.
This year’s world event was held at the Kommandonek Resort near Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West in a forest camp with giraffes, ostriches and various species of goat grazing, says Zelna van Tonder, secretary of the South African Field Target Airgun Association (SAFTAA), and co-organiser of this world meeting.
“It was an incredible experience for the overseas participants to take part in a world championship in our naturally beautiful country among the wildlife,” says Van Tonder.
Participants traveled to South Africa from countries such as the USA, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Iran and the Netherlands to come and participate here.
Van Tonder says the world championship is decided in three days and a points system is used to determine the winners.
“It’s very simple: You get one point when you hit the target and 0 when you miss. However, the target must fall over.
“Targets can be placed at any distance between 9 meters and 50 meters from the firing line.
“All three days’ points are added up at the end of the event to then determine the winners in various classes – and of course also the overall winner -,” says Van Tonder.
“Field target shooting was first introduced in 2003 in South Africa. Our sport is therefore celebrating its 20th anniversary this year,” says Van Tonder enthusiastically.
“Every year – during the national championship – we select a Protea team consisting of eight of our best shooters who then represent South Africa against other countries.
“The Proteas team normally does very well at the world championship, but this year they made us particularly proud.
“Not only did we win the team competition, but several individual participants also performed fantastically,” says Van Tonder.
Gerhard Genade (46), a seasoned shooter from the Cape Air Rifle Club in the Western Cape, was crowned world champion after beating three competitors who finished with the same points on the last day.
Genade says he started his field target shooting career in 2009.
“I have always really enjoyed being able to hit a target. As a young boy I often walked around with my chain and set myself targets.
“However, I only started competing competitively in 2009 at the age of 32.
“It took a few years to progress to this level, but that’s how it goes in any sport,” he says.
“It took Usain Bolt four years to run 9.58 seconds. Most people tend to give up after a few months of struggling, but to be the best at something requires dedication.”
Genade says he can hardly describe how he feels about the win.
“Winning the world championship is really the pinnacle of my shooting career. This year I felt right to finally achieve it and really put in a lot of time to achieve my goal.
“My manager even granted my request to start work an hour earlier every day so that I could stop working an hour earlier to go and train,” says Genade.
“At least my training program is not too strict, but I always make sure to train a month before a big competition at a place with similar terrain to where the competition will be held, and pay attention to things where I feel I need to improve .
“At least I’m working a little on fitness too, because a day can get long in such an event,” says Genade with a laugh.
According to Genade, this year there were far fewer international participants than usual.
“The top shooters were here – the ones who win every competition in Europe and the UK and you read about in magazines. The shooter who came second has already walked away with the title several times.”
Genade says some of the participants finish in the top 10 at the World Championship every year and have been participating in field target shooting competitions for about 30 years.
Still, the South African shooters waved the scepter this year.
Danél van Tonder, a 21-year-old shooter from the Western Cape, finished second in the women’s division and Lauren Parsons, from the USA – who has walked away as the leading woman at several events – walked away with the cup again.
“Kiara Kleynhans won the junior division against three other South African participants.”
According to Van Tonder, the international participants speak highly of the quality of the event that was presented in South Africa.
“We are very proud that we were able to showcase this beautiful country in this way,” says Van Tonder.
Next year’s world championship will take place in Arizona in the USA.