Blyth's Sparling earns silver medal in North American shooting event
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth native Grant Sparling brought a silver medal home to Canada earlier this month after impressing at the Precision Rifle Series North American Championship in Texas.
Sparling was one of over 110 shooters to participate in the North American event, held in Navasota, Texas on the weekend of Dec. 4-5. He was the lone Canadian to make it to the championship match.
This is Sparling’s rookie season in the world of competitive precision rifle events. He worked his way up through three Ontario-based events this season, earning a spot in the northeast regional championship in Pennsylvania earlier this year. A second-place performance there earned him a spot in the North American championship in Texas, where he also placed second.
In an interview with The Citizen, Sparling said he had been shooting casually on and off for several years, but once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he decided to throw himself into it as a challenge. However, as a result of the pandemic, many of the competitions involving shooting larger rifles from longer distances didn’t go ahead. These competitions are traditionally held on Canadian Armed Forces bases, which wasn’t feasible during the height of the pandemic.
As a result, Sparling took part in more accessible competitions during a pandemic, shooting 0.22-caliber rounds from several hundred yards, making it more accessible during the pandemic.
Sparling said he was very happy with his performance, not just at the North American championships, but even in the early, Ontario-based rounds. Upon earning his way into the Pennsylvania and Texas competitions, Sparling said he was taking on professional, sponsored shooters, as well as former law enforcement and military personnel, so the level of competition was high.
Going into the final competition of the season, Sparling was ranked 13th and his goal for the weekend was simply to improve that rank. Finishing second, he said, was something he hadn’t really considered being within his reach.
He hopes to continue competing and improve his position next season, while at the same time seeing more Canadians getting involved and making it to the upper-tier shooting competitions.
Not only has Sparling enjoyed the competitive nature of the shooting world, but he says it is also a very welcoming and supportive community. During competitions, despite taking on one another, participants are always ready to volunteer tips or help a competitor out if they need a part or their gun malfunctions. That’s the kind of environment that will keep the sport growing, he said.
He also hopes that, when next season rolls around, COVID-19 restrictions will have eased to allow for more travel and further variety within the competitions.