FORMER shooting Olympian and national awardee Bertram Manhin has been honoured by the South Trinidad Rifle Association (STRA) for his legacy of excellence in the sport.
Manhin, affectionately known as “Bert”, was bestowed with honorary membership and a commemorative plaque at the entrance to a newly-opened shooting range which was named after him.
Manhin, 89, held a steady hand as he fired the inaugural shot on the new STRA range yesterday at Cedar Hill Road, Forres Park in Claxton Bay.
In a short ceremony at the club, senior STRA club member Aftab Khan lauded Manhin for his contribution to the sport of shooting, and gave a few highlights of his career.
“In his 56-year shooting career, Bert established himself as a legend in local, regional and international circuits. He won countless medals and trophies in the region. In 1963 at the age of 29, he won gold in the T&T pistol championships. In 1966 he won gold in the Central American and Caribbean games. In 1968 he represented T&T at the Olympics in Mexico. In 1978, he came back with a bronze medal from the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada. And in 1999, he was my manager in the Pan Am Games. I was honoured to have a man of that calibre behind me. I remember when we got out of the bus at the range and everyone swarmed around. I thought they made me out but it was Bert, everyone knew him”, said Khan.
Khan commented that the sport was on the decline in Trinidad and Tobago as the minimum age for a Firearm Users Licence is 25.
He noted that at the last Olympics, the average age of the shooters who medalled in the air rifle event was 22 and one shooter who came in second in one event was 17 years old.
“However, we in Trinidad and Tobago start at 25. In the five Olympic Games before that, from 2000 to 2016 the average age of medallists was 19 years old. It seems that we in Trinidad and Tobago do not realise that the best time to groom an athlete is when they are young, ambitious, strong, good eyesight and quick reflexes, everything that you need to be a great shooter. We sabotage ourselves in this regard. That legislation essentially robbed us of the best resource we would have had to move the sport forward.
“A further example is in that the last nationals held by the governing body last year in Olympic disciplines—in some disciplines we had no people. One discipline we had one entrant. In another we had three. Next year is the CAC and no shooter from Trinidad and Tobago has qualified to go to those games. It is against that background that the STRA would take up the mantle of (the) original mandate it was given to encourage marksmanship,” he said.
Manhin in his feature address at the ceremony, tackled the topic and explained that the weapons used in the sport are not powerful weapons.
The former Olympian and national awardee said that at the age of 25 and over, people do not seem enthusiastic about the sport.
“I started shooting when I was 18 at the time. My uncle had given me three rifles—a 303 and two 22 rifles, one of which I still have after 70 years. In those days, there was no 22-rifle range where I shot in Port of Spain. It used to be a little corner in the (St James) Barracks where you could shoot a 22 rifle at 25 yards. It was in 1963 when we started small bore in TRA that we started shooting the 22-rifle”, he said.
“The rifle barrels for target shooting are designed for ten metres. On the other hand, in the market, there are many more powerful rifles, such as semi-automatic air rifles that could do a lot more damage than these things. What we can do is try to convince the people who can make the change. The people who can make the change are the politicians…Once it is a .177 you should be able to own it, but right now, you must get a licence as well as permission by the police to own this, and then it is up to the Police Commission to allow or disallow. If you have a young person who can shoot legally, then you can have this air pistol or air rifle. It is harmless, it will not cause a problem for security,” said Manhin.
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