A former World Cup target shooter, Sylvan Lake’s Arno Baron spends most of his time these days passing on his skills and knowledge to younger generations — and with quite some effect, too.
Last month for the ninth consecutive year he saw one of his understudies — Central Alberta’s Ashley Pikkert — achieve provincial success during the Alberta Provincial Air Gun Championships at the Sylvan Lake Community Centre.
A coach of the Red Deer Fish and Game Association, Team Alberta and the Calgary Rifle and Pistol Club, Baron spends his time regularly travelling around the province for training and competitions.
But despite having now been immersed in the sport for the better part of 60 years, his continued involvement remains much more of a passion than an obligation, he assures. And he’s happy to help the sport grow.
“It’s very popular all over Canada,” he said. Alberta, he added, is a particular hotbed.
“Alberta has all the electronic targets and scoring system. We’re the only ones in Canada to have the equipment that is of Olympic quality.”
Some of that equipment is being transported to Prince George, B.C. for the 2015 Canada Winter Games later this month.
Baron has coached shooters to medals in the last four Canada Winter Games he’s attended, and feels success is again within reach this year.
“I feel that I have the strongest team that I’ve ever coached,” he said.
Without a shooting club in Sylvan Lake, Red Deer’s is the closest for area shooters. Baron hopes those shooters will get the chance to compete locally when the Canada Winter Games arrive in Red Deer in 2019, after it was decided air gun target shooting would be omitted from the Games’ lineup of events.
He’s currently circulating a petition encouraging Red Deer city council to include the sport, which he said has been included “in every modern Olympics since the start of the new Olympic Games.”
Target shooting, he argues, is participated in by youths and adults all around the province, including Central Alberta.
“We have everything in place,” he said. “There is no additional infrastructure to be built — all we need is a high school gym or something similar.”
Baron said costs were rued as the reason behind the sport’s exclusion from the Games. But he doesn’t think that’s reason enough.
“The cost involved is minimal, when you think in terms of the overall cost that they have put out,” he said. “We have everything in place; we are ready to go now, so the excuse saying that it’s a cost factor, I don’t buy it.”
The petition can be signed at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Sylvan Lake branch, and at various locations around Red Deer.
Baron is also planning on circulating it at the Winter Games in Prince George in an attempt to garner as much support possible. It’s a battle he’s planning on seeing through to the end.
“We’re going to go to city council with the petition and all the signatures and say not only is it affecting Red Deer and Alberta, but it’s affecting Canada and all over the place,” he said. “We’re just getting started on this.”