Being paralyzed from the neck down doesn’t stop 53-year-old Victor Morris from doing what he loves – firing his rifle. He had a special rig designed that allows him to fire using one of the only parts of his body that still move on command – his tongue! A native of Aberaeron, in West Wales, the quadriplegic had a rugby accident 24 years ago that left him in his current state. In spite of this, he hasn’t lost his spirit. In fact, he has even managed to beat other able-bodied shooters in international competitions.
“I was desperate to shoot again but never thought I would. After the accident, the thought (that) I’d never be able to use the rifle again was always in the back of my mind,” he said. “It was a difficult thing to come to terms with. I’m so happy to be back doing something I love.” Victor’s love for shooting began when he was only 12 years old. He was competing by the age of 15, and represented Wales for 10 years in clay pigeon shooting contests. He was 29 when the tragic event occurred – while playing rugby for Lampeter against Llandarcy.
“I went into the scrum and the next thing I knew I heard a horrible sound – three cracks – then I blanked out for a second,” recalled Victor. “I came around and I remember being stretchered off. That was it. I was paralyzed from the neck down. It wasn’t painful, I just felt numb. I couldn’t feel a thing.”
approached 65-year-old Kelman for a solution, and that’s when he came up with the crazy contraption involving old car parts. “I’m a keen ‘garden shed’ engineer,” said Kelman. “I enjoy finding things in skips and putting them together, trying to make something work.” The device works by mounting the air rifle on a car axle and triggering it with an electrical mechanism. Victor activates the mechanism using his tongue, setting the device into motion.
“The rifle is on a tripod and there’s an extension behind the butt. I can control the rifle with my chin and use my tongue to press a special trigger,” said Victor. “I wanted to shoot again so I was happy to start working with John. He built a rig for me which meant that I could fire an air rifle. I have started taking part in competitions again. ”
The experience has been a fulfilling one for Kelman as well. “I met Vic in his wheelchair. I held my hand out to shake his, and he looked up at me and said ‘sorry mate, nothing works.’” Kelman said he had never worked with a quadriplegic person before, but he was more than willing to do his best in the situation. “I put my hand under his chin and asked him to move his head around. He could move it from left to right and up and down.”
“So I told him to leave it with me and I would see what I could come up with. I put my thinking cap on and set to work,” said Kelman. He spent sleepless nights until he came up with the perfect device to help Victor. “I have had Vic shooting an air rifle and even doing archery. Soon Vic started to win competitions. Whenever he competed, people wanted to come up and meet him. When he won the Eley Postal Competition in Bisley in 2008, Aubrey was in tears and could not go up on stage to receive his trophy with him. I went up with him, in case he needed someone to help him carry his trophy off stage. I choked up as well.”
Victor’s family and friends seem to be incredibly supportive, including Valmai, his 51-year-old wife. “Vic has been shooting for three years and has been competing since last year,” she said in an interview in 2004. “I enjoy watching the contests and it’s nice to be with him.”