Ace shooter Karen Gerard re-cently added a gold medal to her growing collection of awards.
Gerard beat out about 350 air pistol shooters to earn gold at the 25th Annual Canadian Airgun Grand Prix in Toronto in early February.
A member of the territorial shooting team, Gerard beat her own V.I. women’s record and set a personal best by earning 369 of a possible 400 points in the Air Pistol competition. To do that, Gerard repeatedly hit a target smaller than a dime from 33 feet away.
The Canadian competition was the first of the season, making Gerard’s performance even more spectacular.
Early Season Success
“This is the beginning of the shooting season and to shoot that well in the first match is really a feat because usually that is when you are the most nervous,” said Gerard.
The shooter also competes in Sports Pistol where she uses a 22-gauge pistol and fires at a target 25 meters away. The competition tests two skills, the shooter must hit 30 shots of precision and 30 shots of three second fires, explained Gerard.
“It starts with the arm down and you have to shoot and have your arm back down within three seconds,” she said.
There are more big competitions ahead for Gerard this year, as athletes around the globe begin preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing in August.
Guatemala To Georgia
First up is Guatemala where Gerard will face about 150 of the best shooters from the Americas and Caribbean in March. In April, the markswoman will head to Fort Benning in Georgia where she will go head to head with shooters from across the globe.
“The whole world competes in Georgia this spring which is an Olympic qualifier,” said Gerard.
And of course, there are the Pan American Games in Brazil in July, for which every athlete in the region is gearing up.
“The Pan Am games are the biggest for every athlete in the Virgin Islands,” said Gerard. “My whole goal this year is to do well in Brazil this summer.”
The shooter is also planning to travel to Germany in May to compete in another World Cup event. In fact, Gerard is only missing two major shooting events this season, in China and Australia.
In order to stay in top form, Gerard practices two to three hours just about every day. She is also a dedicated trainer.
“I go to Val at Gym in Paradise and we do a lot of core strengthening and arm strengthening,” said Gerard. “I work on my endurance, but also I have been practicing Yoga, which helps me with being focused and centered.”
While training is important, the key to shooting is being able to perform as well in a competition as in practice, Gerard explained.
“The three second shot is interesting because it’s scored with 10 points and 30 shots, for a maximum of 300 points,” she said. “In practice I shoot around 288 or 290, which is Olympic caliber. But training is very different than a match.”
“You must be able to bring what you do in practice to a match,” Gerard continued. “There is so much pressure in a match — you shake and it’s so hard to stay focused. Everything you learn runs through your head.”
“Ninety percent of shooting is mental,” she added.
Gerard has only been shooting for three years and got interested in the sports thanks to her husband, Ned.
“This is the beginning of my third year of shooting, but my husband has been at it for six years now,” said Gerard. “I picked it up from him and I was so good at it, I just keep doing it. I get better every year.”
Although not a kid, Gerard is in her prime.
Holding Her Own
“Most people in my age group have been shooting for 20 years, but I’ve only been shooting for three,” Gerard said. “I’m holding my own with them though. I’m coming up quickly and have been getting better every year so far.”
“I gained 10 points a year in match in air pistol,” she added.
All of this might not be that amazing if Gerard didn’t have a successful career and two young children.
“I don’t know how I have the time,” Gerard said. “If I thought about it, I probably wouldn’t have the time.”
“A Meditation of Its Own”
Amidst all the chaos of training, work and family, Gerard finds peace through her shooting.
“I enjoy the challenge of shooting, but it also centers me,” Gerard said. “It is like a meditation of its own. Other than shooting, it is teaching me how to be more focused in everything I do and to just slow down.”
“My daughters think it’s pretty cool too,” Gerard added.