Melton blind shooter launches fundraising drive for world title bid
Leading vision-impaired shooter Michael Whapples is appealing for help in his bid to become a world champion in his sport.
Michael, who is registered blind, is aiming to compete at the World Shooting ParaSport World Championships, in Sydney, in October, where vision-impaired shooting will be included for the first time.
The Melton-based marksman would be among the favourites for this inaugural world crown, having last year won gold at the International Shooting Competition of Hanover, and a World Cup silver medal.
But with no funding available, Michael, who was named Disability Sportsperson of the Year at the Melton Times Sports Awards last month, has to raise £12,000 to put himself in the mix.
“To compete at this event I need to qualify at the International Shooting Competition of Hanover in May,” he explained.
“As vision impaired is not yet included in the Paralympics, there is no funding for vision-impaired shooters in the UK.
“This means I will have to cover all the costs for both events myself.”
The £12,000 target will cover competition fees, travel expenses to Germany and Australia, equipment, and training costs.
“As I cannot see I also require an assistant whose costs I’ll also need to find as without them I cannot compete,” Michael added.
“Any funds over and above my needs will be used to further vision-impaired shooting in the UK.”
The Holwell Sports Rifle Club committee member learned to shoot at Worcester College, and first moved to Melton while studying at Nottingham University.
Vision-impaired shooters use rifles with minor modifications to the aiming device.
Sights are replaced by an electronic device which detects the target and relays audio signals to the athlete through earphones.
The shooter also has a sighted assistant to provide additional information.
Having won the British Visually Impaired (VI) Rifle Championship several times, Michael decided it was time for new challenges and became the first VI shooter to compete directly against sighted shooters in normal competitions.
And last month he became the first vision-impaired shooter to compete at the British Open Airgun Championships, at Bisley, where he compiled a new competition personal best.
“It was against sighted shooters so gaining experience was the main goal rather than winning,” he said.
“As well as giving me some valuable competition experience, I think having me at these increases the awareness of vision-impaired shooting among the wider shooting community.
“I also hope it will encourage other vision-impaired shooters to join me.”
Michael has to combine a full-time career as a software developer with his sport, both on the range and off it.
As well as competing, he is chairman of the International Blind Sport Association’s shooting committee and is leading a bid to get VI shooting into the Paralympics.
* To support Michael’s bid to win the inaugural world title and read more about his career, visit www.gofundme.com and search ‘Michael Whapples’.