Townshipper shares Olympic Moments
Just a few days before the London 2012 Olympics were about to begin, I ran into an elderly gentleman, in North Hatley, sporting a very vintage shirt with the Olympic rings on the front pocket. I soon learnt that Edson Warner, whose family first came to the
Lennoxville area in 1804, had participated in not one but two Olympic Games, Helsinki in 1952 and Rome in 1960, as a shooter.
More precisely, Mr. Warner competed in the Rapid Fire Pistol at 25 metres, the Small Bore Rifle, three positions, 50 metres, and the Small Bore Rifle, prone, 50 metres, at the Helsinki Olympics. At the Olympic Games in Rome eight years later, he competed in the Free Rifle, three positions, 300 metres, and the Small Bore Rifle, prone, 50 metres.
“When I was about twelve I read about the Olympics, but I thought the prospects of going there were small. I was very happy when I qualified for the Olympics.”
Describing his sport, which he continues to be enthusiastic about to this day, Mr. Warner commented: “In a Rapid Fire Pistol event you shoot a five shot series in eight seconds, then five shots in six seconds, then five shots in four seconds.” In another of his events, the shooter takes forty shots at a very small target while prone, forty shots while kneeling, and forty shots standing.
“To get on the Olympic team we had to shoot ‘trials’, have witnesses sign the targets, and then send the actual targets in to the Canadian Association of Marksmen. They would then recommend two shooters for each Olympic event,” explained Mr. Warner. Training for the Olympics was as important in the 1950’s as it is in 2012, but it wasn’t easy to do. “We trained as much as we could afford. There were no sponsors and we had to buy our own guns and ammunition.”
Excellent marksman that he was, Mr. Warner has also competed in four World Championships and numerous other elite shooting tournaments, so I asked him how the Olympics differed from other competitions. “There were a lot more people around at the Olympics and the Opening Ceremonies were too damn long. You see, anything that gets me excited or raises my heart beat is bad! As a shooter you have to train yourself to bring your heart beat down; you must resist getting excited.”
Mr. Warner also remembered when some members of the Canadian Olympic team got themselves in some hot water at the Helsinki Games. “George Genereux, who was only seventeen years old and from Saskatoon, had just won a gold medal in shooting. Celebrating his win, George and a group of athletes stole one of the Canadian flags but when they got back to the Olympic Village, the authorities were waiting. One Canadian sports reporter had heard about the incident and was asking questions, but the whole Canadian team kept quiet about it so he didn’t get his headline!”
Edson first became interested in shooting when he earned his Marksman Badge with the Boy Scouts in 1942. “Then I joined the Lennoxville Rifle Club in 1946, followed by the McGill Rifle Club. At McGill they had an excellent set-up for training,” he said. Mr. Warner became such a talented shooter during his four years at McGill that he remains to this day the only McGill student in history to have received a McGill Senior Sports Letter ‘M’ for shooting. “Back then I shot anything I could get a hold of!”
With strong interests in not only shooting but histo- ry as well, Mr. Warner was quick to hand me a printout of some of Canada’s top marksmen of the past when we met. I was surprised to learn that Olympic gold medals had been won by several Canadians, besides George Genereux who was mentioned earlier. They were: Walter Ewing, London in 1908; Gerald Ouellette, Melbourne in 1956; and Linda Thom, Los Angeles in 1994. Robert Newton, another Townshipper from Sherbrooke, took a Silver Medal in shooting at the Paris Olympic Games in 1924.
At the age of 82, Edson still enjoys shooting, and holds his hand up to show me how steady it still is and why he rarely drinks coffee. He is also still very interested in elite sporting competitions: he raked sand as a volunteer at the World Junior Athletics in Sherbrooke in 2003 and he is a volunteer for the upcoming 2013 Canada Games. “We had to wear shorts when we worked at the World Junior Athletics and my legs got sunburnt raking the sand. This time I hope to be put in the Protocol Department and get to hand out medals!”
Edson Warner has received dozens of medals and badges for his marksmanship at some of the world’s most prestigious shooting competitions over the years.