The Column, No. 35:
Die Suid-Afrikaanse 2008 F-Klas Nasionale Kampioenskap
The South African Nationals were held in Bloemfontein, capital of the Orange Free State Province of South Africa. They were held from March 29th to April 5th, a grueling shooting schedule for all participants. It is fall in the southern hemisphere. As such, the weather was warm throughout the week. The winds were continuous with some serious dust storms towards the end and rain on the final day. Everyone got wet. However, given the great accommodations, fellowship among the shooters and South African hospitality, all had a lekker-time (good time).
There were shooters from Great Britain, the United States, Malaysia and Germany, as well as the South African contingent. F-Class open and F-Class target rifle shooting is the fastest growing shooting sport in the world today and South Africans are right there in the forefront. Because of the popularity of this new sport and the continued success of the S.A. shooters, I believe that their government would do well to consider officially sponsoring these shooters and provide financial support. My reasons are simple: The chaps from South Africa are better ambassadors for their country than all of the diplomats combined AND they are superb shooters (reference my article on their performance at the U.S. national championships in 2007). With a combination like that, one would be hard pressed to find better men to represent the country. I am in no way belittling the South African rugby team, which are the current World Champions. However, the South Africans are also the current World Champions in F-Class shooting. How often do you encounter two world champion teams from the same country at the same time?
After a week of tough shooting, Frans Snyman emerged as the 2008 South African National F-Class Open Champion. If he hung all of his medals around his neck, heíd have a permanent sprain. Frans won the Presidentís Cup and the Grand Aggregate Cup on the final day, making him the all-over champion for 2008.
Frans is obviously a happy man. I have to add, knowing him personally, that he carries that smile with him everywhere he goes. Congratulations my friend and well done!
A chap from Britain, that I have not had the pleasure to meet (I will do so at Bisley, UK in 2009) won the Thomas Theron Cup and South African National Championship for TR (target rifle). His name is Parag Patel and from the smiles on his face and medals around his neck, he is also a very happy man. Congratulations Parag. I look forward to meeting you soon.
Dave Meredith won the F-Class National competition (similar as F-TR in the USA with .308 caliber). Dave gives me great hope, as he is near my age. Congratulations Dave. I will toast your achievements with a glass of Amarula.
Jannie Kruger won the Thomas Theron Cup in the F-Class international discipline. Congratulations Jannie! I hope to see you in Bisley.
There were so many individual and team events that I could not possibly cover them in this article. Besides, I am the new guy on the block to F-Class and am still learning about all of the categories, combinations and aggregates. Iíll get there and be fully prepped by the time the U.S. Nationals at Lodi, Wisconsin come around in the fall of 2008.
The team from Western Province (Cape Town area) won the 2008 F-Class Inter-Provincial Team competition. There are many individuals on this crack team that will be familiar to readers worldwide: Carel Taljaard (coach), Jannie Els, Chris van Niekerk and Cherryll van Niekerk (captain).
On a note for the future, my friend Jannie Els (r), pictured below with Frans Snyman (l), was selected as the South African F-Class Protea team Captain for 2009.
The South African team will be traveling to defend their World Championship at Bisley, England, in July 2009. That should be a great competition, as the South Africans took the World Title away from the United States in 2005 and the American F-Class team is eagerly looking forward to a rematch in the hope of regaining the title. Both teams will be traveling to England with their absolute best shooters, new equipment and the very best ammunition in the world. Of course, the teams from Ireland, Britain, Germany, Scotland and a few others will be there attempting to upset them both.
I will be there, along with my wife Mary and daughter Susannah. Susannah will be shooting as an individual, not being able to make the U.S. Team tryouts due to school. As such, we can root for all of our friends, the South Africans, the Americans and the Irish (especially our close friend, Conor Murphy). Whoever wins, we will still be friends after it is all over.
The wonderful thing about this sport is the comaraderie among the shooters. On the line, everyone is a fierce competitor. You are competing against yourself as much as the other shooters. A puff of wind, a slight heat thermal or minor variation in your load can mean the difference between the X-ring and the 9-ring. Add in the human factor and you have one of the most challenging sports yet devised by man. Despite all of that, the shooters remain friends, assisting each other both on and off the line. I have seen men fix the rifles of their competitors so they could shoot. They would rather win or lose by competition, than by default. After a day of shooting, everyone enjoys dinner, complimenting each other and complaining about the conditions or their own shooting.
This is all possible because F-Class is considered an amateur sport. There are no large purses to win, only a few dollars for the best shooter on a given day. Last year at the U.S. Nationals, my daughter came home with a whole fifty-five dollars. Heck, the entry fee was more than that. If you add in the travel expenses, lodging, meals, equipment costs and ammunition, you realize that the men and women who shoot F-Class do it for the fun and pride, not for the money (what little there is). Oh, there are nice medals and some cool silver cups that travel with the winners, but the sport remains a competition among friends and a challenge to do the best you can with the equipment you have.
I have to believe that if all sports had participants of the same mentality as F-Class shooters, we would have a better world. For that reason, I encourage individuals, corporations and governments to find a way to sponsor F-Class shooting teams. Help them get their distinctive shooting shirts and blazers, cut them a break on their equipment and provide them assistance with their travel expenses. There are no better ambassadors of goodwill to be found on this planet. It will pay back dividends many times over.
To all our friends on every continent, the Clary Clan will see you at the world championships at Bisley, England, in July 2009. I guess Iíd better get my passport in order.
Copyright 2008 by Jim Clary. All rights reserved.