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Maidstone’s Bill Wilson wins gold in SH2 class at British Open Airgun Championships and targets international success to prove he’s not too old for Paralympics

A man left paralysed below the armpits after an accident abroad is now a British champion in his chosen sport of shooting.

Bill Wilson, from Maidstone, suffered a life-changing fall down hotel stairs while in Holland six years ago.

Bill Wilson took up shooting while undergoing rehab
Bill Wilson took up shooting while undergoing rehab

He’d gone to fetch his camera from his fifth-floor room ready to accompany his mum to a tulip festival in Amsterdam when he tripped and fell backwards down a marble staircase.

“The coaches had arrived at breakfast time and I thought I’d shoot up to the room to get my camera,” recalled Wilson, who recently turned 61.

“The lift at the hotel was very slow - it took a minute to do a floor and we were on the fifth floor - so I decided to take the stairs.

“I said, ‘I’ll be down in a sec, Mum’ but it was a different story.

“I got to the last step on the fifth floor and caught my boot under the carpet section, went back and came down 28 marble steps and snapped my neck, unfortunately.

“But that was then, that was May 2018, but I’ve made a good comeback. I’m still in a wheelchair but onwards and upwards, so they say.”

Wilson’s inspirational attitude to life has seen him flourish in disability air rifle shooting.

He took up the sport while going through rehab at Stoke Mandeville and has even set up a shooting range at home.

It involves him firing his air rifle through the hallway and kitchen, into the conservatory.

Wilson works with national coach Bob Thornby and last month competed in the British Open Airgun Championships in Bisley, Surrey.

Bill Wilson’s British title bid hit the target - and now he’s aiming for more glory
Bill Wilson’s British title bid hit the target - and now he’s aiming for more glory

He won gold in the SH2 class and bronze in the SH1 class, pipped by two Team GB athletes.

“We’re put into various classifications, like a handicap, based on whether you can hold the rifle,” said Wilson.

“I can’t lift both arms at the same time so I utilise a spring stand, like a metal stand, that fixes to my shooting table and replicates my left arm, supporting the rifle, and the rest is all breathing control.

“I was shooting with a mixture in SH1, those who can hold a rifle but are also disabled, and SH2, which is my category for people with similar disabilities.

“I picked up bronze and gold, which wasn’t bad for an old boy.”

Wilson says he’s considered too old for a Paralympic call-up, much to his frustration, but that won’t stop him travelling the world competing at international events.

He has a busy schedule lined up.

“A coach - I won’t name them - said I was too old for the Paralympics,” said Wilson.

“They’re looking for 16-year-olds they can get 20 years out of.

“It should be done on merit but that’s the way it is and I’m quite happy going out attending international competitions.

“I’ve got one coming up in Gibraltar and Hannover and I’ll do Italy, Paris and Stockholm.

“Hopefully next year, depending on sponsorship, I’ll kick off in Tokyo and do Brisbane, Johannesburg, Doha, Bahrain, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Rio.

“Do you know who my biggest competitior is? It’s me.

“I’m very competitive. I’ll always push and push and I guess there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best.

“I’ll carry on as long as my eyesight allows me and prove those wrong who say I’m too old for the Paralympics.”

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