Town­ship­per shares Olympic Mo­ments

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, North Hat­ley

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!”

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

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.

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