Ruth Mwandumba: “A sport for everyone, there’s no limit on time, no limit on age”
Having benefited herself, English champion Ruth Mwandumba’s mission is to popularise the shooting sports and make them more accessible to all, as she tells Jasper Fellows
How do we get more shooters on to the stands, ranges and podium steps? It’s a question that’s often on the mind of Sporting shooters and industry professionals alike.
It’s a question that’s been on the mind of 25-year-old Ruth Mwandumba since she was a young Army cadet, shooting for the very first time. Now, as a championship-winning, British Shooting-endorsed top Shot, Ruth is answering that question for herself through the #TargetChange initiative.
How Ruth Mwandumba got started in shooting
“Shooting, aged 13, with the cadets was my first experience on a range, but I didn’t start shooting competitively until later in life,” says Ruth. “In fact, I didn’t get into the sport seriously until 2017, when I finished studying in London and moved back to my hometown, Liverpool. (Read more on how to get into shooting.)
“I decided I’d like to get more involved with competitive shooting, so began looking for local clubs. Soon enough I found Wigan Target Sports Club, where I still shoot to this day,” she adds.
“I had a go on the ranges at Wigan and began talking to some of the members. I asked them what I needed to do to get into the competitive side of the sport. They guided me through all of the gear I needed to buy and explained that I needed to start putting in scores at events in order to climb the leader boards.
“So I did exactly that and before long I became the women’s 10m Air Rifle English Champion, just seven months after I first began shooting in earnest. I also discovered British Shooting, filled out an expression of interest form on their website and jumped into their world too.”
Since that early title win and signing up with British Shooting, Ruth’s career has blossomed. She became the first black athlete to compete for British Shooting on the international stage, scored a silver in women’s 10m air rifle and a bronze in women’s 50m prone rifle at the Commonwealth Shooting Federation (European Division) Championships in 2018, broke numerous records and is now gunning for a quota place for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
View this post on Instagram
However, Ruth wants more than personal glory; she wants to open up the sport and get everyone involved. “From the very beginning I knew I wanted to help more people get into shooting,” she reveals. “I’ve always said, when I started there was no one else who looked like me on the range. “It was never something that bothered me, or that I saw as a negative thing. It was just something that I was aware of. So, I thought, what can I do to change this and get people from all backgrounds involved? But I just didn’t know where to begin.”
That was until a burst of creative energy inspired the young champion to put pen to paper and express herself through writing poetry.
“About two years ago I came up with the idea of creating a poem and making it powerful, and then of collaborating with British Shooting to get the message out there,” she explains.
“I approached British Shooting with the idea and, by coincidence, they were also looking for a way to launch a new scheme to get more shooters, from all backgrounds, into shooting sports.”
“A sport for everyone, there’s no limit on time, no limit on age,
From the top of the nation to the bottom, I want people to say,
A Scouser from Waterloo, she helped pave the way,
Alongside this person and that person they really did open the doors,
To this beautiful sport that is not only ours, but could be yours.”
Ruth’s poem would become a rallying cry for #TargetChange, an initiative that, in British Shooting’s own words, “aims to break down barriers within target shooting by providing a platform to allow new people to get involved in the sport”. But what is the mechanism of action? How will Ruth and British Shooting reach out to a new audience?
Find out more about #TargetChange and find a Come Try It event near you
“The first step was to launch an expression of interest form on British Shooting’s website,” says Ruth. “Anyone who is interested in trying shooting, or equally anyone who already shoots but wants to try a different discipline, should head to the site and fill out the form.
“The information that we collate from the forms helps us with the second stage of the initiative, the ‘Come Try It’ days. These fun events are open to all, are free to attend and serve as an introduction to shooting sports to anyone who would like to know more.”
A free day of shooting sounds great. But you could argue that few outside the industry know of British Shooting, let alone regularly visit the association’s website. Fortunately, Ruth has it all figured out. “This is something we’ve all been thinking about. From the very beginning, I thought it would be good to involve both Eley and the Women’s Sports Alliance [WSA].
“Eley is my ammunition sponsor. Of course, most people who follow Eley are already shooters, but we want them involved as well. We want shooters to come to our events and try their hand at something new. Plus, it will give them an opportunity to get their non-shooting friends involved.
“As for the WSA, I’d worked with their founder in the past. Their focus is on telling athletes’ stories through creative videos. When we started getting serious about launching #TargetChange I thought, why not see if they’d like to contribute their skills to the cause. Plus, their audience is made up of keen sports fans who might have a good chance of success in the shooting world.
“We’ve tried to reach different audiences through these three organisations, British Shooting, Eley and the WSA, and I think we are. But I would like to go further.
“I’d love to run #TargetChange visits to schools, workplaces and youth clubs, to actively bring the sport to people and get them involved. That’s how we can attract a whole new audience who have never even considered shooting as a sport for them.”
“Those plans are still in the pipeline,” admits Ruth. “My real desire is to simply get more people shooting. When I’m talking to newcomers about the sport, I tell them how fun and different it is. I’ve convinced my mates to come and have a go and they’ve said, ‘This is so different to anything I’ve tried before, when can we shoot again?’.
“I love to see that initial hesitation giving way to competitiveness, to joy. It really is true that you’ll never know if you never try and if we can get more of the public to try our sports, they will love them.”
Images courtesy of the Women’s Sports Alliance, a global story-telling platform with a mission to champion women’s sport.