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V.I. Olympian Ned Gerard: The Shootist

July 27, 2008 — True or false: the V.I. Sport Shooting Federation has put an athlete in every Olympic games since 1972.
It may be surprising to some, but it's true, and this year St. John resident Ned Gerard will be carrying on the federation's legacy by representing the Virgin Islands in the upcoming Beijing games.
"We've got the longest run of athletes out of all the other federations," Gerard, 53, said. "It's kind of like a legacy. We're the smallest shooting federation in the world, and we still get to put an athlete in there every time."
Born in New Jersey, Gerard has lived on St. John for two decades and owns his own construction business, Iroquois Builders. He comes from a long line of athletes. Gerard's wife Karen is also a nationally ranked pistol shooter and is going to the Olympics as the federation's coach, team leader and alternate.
Horseback riding also runs in the family, from Gerard's other two sisters to his daughter, a nationally ranked athlete in show jumping at just 17.
"My youngest daughter is probably the greatest athlete in our family — she's also the one who got me involved in shooting. She was 13, and doing the junior pentathlon, which is shooting the air pistol, swimming, running and cross country horse racing," Gerard said.
"Since she was shooting pistol, I went for the rifle, because I didn't want her kicking my butt. I found that it was a great meditation — I just fell in love with the sport."
In the past six years, Gerard has won 15 international medals, including a bronze medal in the Western Hemisphere Championships, a silver at the Central American Caribbean Rifle/Pistol Championships and a bronze medal in his division at the U.S. National Championships. He has also won all Caribbean competitions three out of the last four years.
His impressive shooting resume enabled Gerard to apply for a wild card slot at this year's summer games.
"There are four world cups a year, and in those cups, you have to hit a qualifying score or win a gold medal in the Pan Am Games or Western Hemisphere Championships. If you win a gold, you get a quota slot, which means that your country gets an automatic berth in the Olympics," Gerard said.
"Because we are a hardship country, meaning that we don't have the facilities, the coaches, et cetera, to train athletes full time for the Olympics, we can apply as a wild card. I had the qualifying scores, but I didn't have a quota, so I applied for a wild card and got that."
Gerard's Olympic event is the 50-meter prone rifle — a one hour and 15 minute competition that requires a great deal of concentration. The shooter has to lie on his stomach, aiming the rifle and hitting a target 50 meters away.
Gerard will be traveling to China with the V.I. delegation on August 4. His event will be held on August 15.
Making it to the Olympics has been the goal from day one, Gerard said, holding up his right hand, which is tattooed with colorful Olympic rings.
"Five years ago I got this, when I started shooting," he said. "I said get off your butt if you want to go there, and I've trained every single day since. It's just an amazing process and as an athlete it's the greatest honor that can be bestowed upon you, and I'm blown away that at my age I've made it."
While recently training with members of the U.S. National team, Gerard said he learned about the importance of working and traveling with a sports psychologist.
"Once you reach a certain point on the pyramid, you have to break down your problems mentally to get you over that last hump and win the medal," he said. "I have to do that all by myself. That top five or six percent you have to knock off — whether it's about confidence or other mental issues — that's where the sports psychologist comes in to help put you over the edge."
The advancement of sport shooting within the territory is also important to Gerard, who also heads the V.I. Sport Shooting Federation. The first place to start is getting a proper shooting range and getting more people interested in the sport at a younger age, he said.
"We need at least six lanes so we can have six shooters," Gerard said. "And a facility that's 21 feet by 180 feet on flat land, preferably. But we'll take whatever we can get. This is something I’m going to be working on actively when I get back from the Olympics, to see what we can do for our sport and the federation and the future of shooting in the Virgin Islands."
Anyone interested in becoming a part of the federation or helping to procure a facility can call Gerard at 643-0706 or 775-6126.

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