THERE are not many who can say they have competed at the Olympics – never mind on multiple occasions.
And while Carol Graham (neé Bartlett), may have been from Gosport originally, it was Jersey where her shooting talents were discovered.
Graham, who died a week before her 75th birthday last month after being recently diagnosed with colon cancer, stood alone as the only post-war Jersey-trained Olympic-level marksman.
Born in 1948, she moved to Jersey in the 1970s, working in the hotel business before setting up her own driving school. She also joined the Jersey Pistol Club where her natural shooting skills became instantly apparent. The founder of the club, Denis Remon, a serious competitor himself, took her under his wing and helped her rapidly develop her latent talents to a very high level.
She soon started competing on the international stage and, such was her impact, Graham came to the attention of the national shooting associations, leading to selection for the England and Great Britain national squads.
In 1978, just a few years after taking up the sport, she was chosen to represent Great Britain at the World Championships in Seoul where she finished fifth in the women’s individual air pistol event. A year later she would be back in South Korea at the same championships, where, competing in the 10 metre air pistol team event along with Rosemarie Edgar and Trudy Henry, she would win the bronze medal behind winners USA and Sweden. It would be her sole medal at the World Championships in her illustrious career.
Graham found success at national events and Commonwealth Shooting Federation (European Division) Championships by this time too. She made her debut appearance at the latter when it was held in Jersey in 1978. The sole female competitor in the free pistol event in a field of 14, she won bronze, with Remon taking gold. She would not return to the championships until 1992 in Northern Ireland when organisers finally held separate men’s and women’s events. By now, having also spent some time in Sweden, she was living in and representing England when she stormed to air pistol gold, 14 points ahead of her nearest rival. Her score of 381 would have put her in the silver medal position, just three points off the leader with two rounds to go, if it was included in the men’s event. She retained her title a year later in England, also winning the women’s sport pistol gold. At the next one, in 1996, she would successfully defend both titles, as the championships, and Graham, returned to Jersey soil. Somewhat fittingly, it would be her last appearance in the championships, her shooting career coming to a complete circle.
In between, however, there would be bigger and better things to come for Graham, including her first call-up to the Great Britain squad for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Competing in the 25m pistol event, she would eventually finish 12th against 29 other shooters from 21 different nations and, with a score of 575, just eight points away from a medal position.
It would be another 12 years until she would be selected for the Olympics again, this time in Atlanta in 1996. Competing in both the 25m pistol and 10m air pistol, Graham would finish in 30th and 23rd place respectively.
Her highlights didn’t end there though. She won a bronze medal at a ISSF World Cup event in Zurich in 1986. And at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, she won two bronze medals, in the 10m air pistol pair and the 25m sport pistol pair, with her partner Margaret Thomas. She also shot for England at the inaugural CSF World Championships in New Delhi, India in 1995, winning all her matches, picking up gold in both air pistol and sports pistol and being proclaimed “Woman of the Match”.
By the time Graham retired, she had been the British women’s pistol champion at 25 metres five times and a remarkable 13 times at 10 metres, including consecutive runs from 1984 to 1987 and 1991 to 1999. In 1997, when the UK banned cartridge pistols after the tragedy at Dunblane, Graham moved back to Jersey in an attempt to continue with her sport. Sadly, Jersey’s strict housing regulations severely restricted her choices in accommodation with the result that, after a year of frustration, she returned to England and retired from shooting.
She was a woman of high standards, with a sharp wit and a panache for style and flair. Always on the go, her friend Derek Bernard, a multi-Island Games medallist for Jersey at shooting, said she had a remarkable ability to both take shooting at a very serious level to the point where it dominated her life but would make friendships which lasted forever.
She is survived by her third husband, Jamie Graham, a Scottish professional pilot who she married in 2004. After trying England and France, they eventually settled in Scotland. Graham was previously married to Weith Andersson and Harry Page, both ending in divorce, but with who she remained good friends.
nCarol Graham (neé Bartlett), sport shooter, born 19 October 1948; died 12 October 2023
With thanks to Derek Bernard for assisting in providing information on Carol Graham’s life.