Discovered by fluke, Bettina Manner’s passion for pistol shooting (air and .22) has taken her to several international competitions, and now she is representing Gibraltar at the Island Games for the second time – the first was in Gotland a few years ago, and this coming July on home soil.
“After graduating as a primary school teacher in Budapest in 2011, I went to Denmark for a semester in art school. During that time, my schoolmates and I enjoyed an outing to a shooting range and, despite never having done it before, I came first out sixteen people trying out, so I realised I had a talent for it. When I moved to Gibraltar, I joined the local shooting club at Lathbury Barracks, where I became a regular, and in the past two years I’ve been participating in various international events.”
One of her proudest moments was representing Gibraltar at the Hungarian Open: “Organisers were delighted that a small country like Gibraltar was present, so I got a warm homecoming. I was there on my own, and I was paired with a male Hungarian athlete for my first ever mixed-team event.”
“Sweaty palms don’t do any favours to your grip on the pistol.”
She regularly travels to Spain for regional competitions with her fellow small-bore shooters Sasha, Louis, Jonathan, Daniel, Philip and Alex. They always land at least one medal, she proudly reveals.
Bettina is an ambassador for Gibraltar, both in her job as tourist guide and in her commitment to sports. She welcomes and introduces cruise liner passengers to local history and places of interest with passion and friendliness, and, as she says: “My job allows me most afternoons free for target practice, that’s why I’ve come such a long way in a short time.”
She is now steadily training for the Games: “I will take part in air-pistol and cartridge-pistol shooting, although my core disciplines are Olympic 10-metre air and 25-metre small-calibre pistol, also known as ‘small bore’.”
A fully-fledged sport in its own right, pistol shooting doesn’t require a high level of fitness, but the upper body must be trained for strength, the arms for steadiness, and the mind for composure and concentration. “Lots of training is still needed, to improve the technique and to refine aim and hand-eye coordination. The most difficult part is freeing your mind from any random thoughts and keeping total focus on the target, as well as your heartbeat low and steady, while sweaty palms don’t do any favours to your grip on the pistol. Shooters need to work on strengthening core muscles and posture, to be able to raise and lower the one-kilo for over one hour.” Shooters also use a gunsmith screwdriver set to maintain and clean their own gun.
Bettina’s personal best so far is 544, the national ladies’ record in Gibraltar.
In fact, both men and women’s tests consist in taking sixty shots in a maximum time of seventy-five minutes, which they can manage as they like. For example, one can take ten shots at the time, check them on the paper, or screen if using the electronic target, then rest for a while, or one may just find it comfortable to go on shooting all pellets in a regular sequence.
Targets are made of concentric circles, black the inside ones, and the outside white, the centre being worth ten points and decreasing outwards. The central bull in a ten-metre target is the same size of the pellet. The top score possible in a match is 600 points, and Bettina’s personal best so far is 544, which is the national ladies’ record in Gibraltar!
Not bad at all for thirty-one-year old go-getter Bettina, who reminds us how nerves of steel play a big part: “You must leave any stress at the range door before training and competitions.”
“This is the safest sport there is,” she adds. “We are under the range officers’ orders and supervision at all times, and there is a lot of emphasis and awareness on firearm safety.” She and her teammates can carry their pistols when they fly commercial to international competitions, which may turn out expensive, so shooters prefer travelling by car to venues whenever possible.
Bettina came to Gibraltar at the end of 2011 upon invitation of a friend who waxed lyrical about its great life in the sun, with plenty of opportunities, culture, and plenty to do for fun. She fell in love with the Rock so she stayed for seven years and counting. Soon after she settled in, she joined the King’s Chapel Choir: “I enjoyed singing with them, and watching the audience’s faces when the song we’re signing clearly taps into their emotions.” She would love to star as a soloist one day, to convey those emotions from the front row.
Bettina is also an eager concert and theatre goer, and virtually any cultural event on the Rock can count on her regular presence, making her quite popular in the community. Haute couture got her ‘shot’, when she was cast as a model for Gibraltar Fashion Week: “Striding along the catwalk in high heels without catching them in the hem was the difficult part, but I got to pose for fashion photographers and also I got to wear beautiful gowns that I wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to.”