Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – A 63-year-old Barbados grandfather who used to smash fearsome West Indies bowler Joel Garner around a cricket pitch is shooting for Commonwealth Games gold in the men’s pistol — after surviving a near-death experience last year.
Bernard Chase, instantly recognisable with his grey-streaked dreadlocks and wiry beard, suffered a heart attack while cycling and only made it onto the plane to Australia after getting the all-clear from his cardiologist.
“My buddy told me I just collapsed on my bike,” the pistol-toting fruit and veg farmer told AFP in an interview.
“I woke up two days later in hospital. I used to cycle in a group and before we ride we say a prayer,” added Chase, fighting back tears.
“I remember praying, but the next thing I knew I was in hospital. They put me on a treadmill and found out I had a blockage in one of the small vessels of the heart — I’m lucky to be here.”
The spritely granddad, known as “Ras” to his team-mates, underwent heart surgery last August and insists he’s in tip-top shape to contest his fourth Commonwealth Games.
Father-of-four Chase, who made his Games debut in Manchester 16 years ago, bears a passing resemblance to wild-haired Hollywood pirate Jack Sparrow when he aims his gun, due to his unusual shooting style.
He shoots with his right hand while focusing with his left eye to compensate for a glaucoma problem.
“People think I’m a little bit of a freak because I’m left-eye dominant,” the Barbadian record-holder said with a chuckle.
“Most people stand 45 degrees to the target and bring up the pistol to their right eye. If I stand like that I could never shoot straight.”
– Cricket dream –
Chase, who took up shooting a little over 20 years ago, once dreamt of playing cricket for the West Indies alongside giant fast bowler Garner, his former classmate.
“I had dreams,” he smiled. “Joel Garner went to school with me and we played cricket together. ‘Big Bird’ wasn’t a bad cricketer — he bowled at me and I got some lashes in him too!”
Chase, who also played football and flirted with athletics in college, shrugged: “I wasn’t going to make the Barbados cricket team, let alone the West Indies team — so I took up shooting.”
Chase’s best Commonwealth Games performances so far came in Manchester — a ninth-place effort in the 50m pairs — but he promised to come out all guns blazing on the Gold Coast to make his family proud back home in Bridgetown.
“My daughter especially thinks her dad is the greatest,” he said. “I’m looking to be in the bunch here. I’m a champion, I’m going to be around for a long time to come.”
Asked about how it feels to pull on the Barbados team colours and compete for the Caribbean island, Chase puffed out his cheeks.
“It feels great, man,” he said. “It makes you feel worthwhile, that life is worth living. It makes you feel even bigger than Joel Garner!”