At the age of 49, St. John builder Ned Gerard is still rising to the top of his field among competitive rifle shooters.
Gerard, a member of the V.I. Shooting Team, has been shooting for only four years, and made an impressive show at the Championships of the Americas last November in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
No one ever thought that I would win a medal, but I hit Olympic scores three days in a row, he said. When I did well on the first day, it was really good for me psychologically. I knew that I could do well, and do it again.
Gerard began shooting after injuring his back playing soccer.
Back Injury Leads to Shooting
I was the V.I. womens soccer coach for 36 years when I blew out two vertebrae in my back, he said. My daughter was 11 and was training for the tetrathalon, which includes equine cross country jumping, running, swimming and pistol shooting. I didnt want to compete with her, so I picked up the rifle instead.
Since picking up the rifle, Gerard has been steadily improving.
Ive done good with limited coaching and very little support from the government, he said. The V.I. Olympic Committee is small, and they dont have that much money. But they have started to sponsor me.
The V.I. Olympic Committee is also requesting funding from the International Olympic Committee to support Gerard.
I am one of three elite athletes that the local Olympic Committee has chosen for additional funding, he said. They will choose one of us, who will not only get additional funding, but additional training as well.
World Class Coaches
Although Gerard does not have international sponsorship yet, he does have three world class coaches.
One of my coaches is a psychological coach, he said. Shooting is 90 percent psychological. You need total concentration; you go into another world when you are shooting.
Five time Olympianthree as a coach and two as a shooterSt. John resident Dr. William Henderson is Gerards psychological coach and close friend.
Hes like a father to me, said Gerard. In the 50 meter shoot, even though it doesnt sound far away, the target is the size of Roosevelts head on a dime. You have to concentrate on one shot at a time and be methodical.
Ken Johnson and Bruce Merideth are Gerards fundamental coaches.
Johnson is one of the greatest coaches in the world, he said. Merideth was on the U.S. Olympic shooting team for 25 years, and then he became a V.I. shooter. These guys basically put me in position and see what I am doing wrong.
Up next for the rising star of V.I. shooting is the World Cup in Brazil in April, another World Cup in Germany in June, and one in Italy later in June. Gerard, a tireless competitor, will then travel to Colombia for the Championships of the Americas and Caribbean in July.
Although he competes against professional athletes, who solely shoot for a living, Gerard has no intention of giving up his day job.
I have too many kids to be able to shoot full time, he said. I try to train five or six days a week, but I have to stay working. So, how does the almost 50-year-old Gerard keep his competitive edge?
I am really determined, he said. I am a pain in the ass. I always give it 100 percent, and I love it.