Anastasia Sparrow followed a fashionable start in the US by immersion in country sports in Surrey – and the chance to shoot alongside Team GB
A move to Surrey saw Anastasia Sparrow become completely immersed in fieldsports, hunting with Surrey Union and shooting as a member of a ladies’ syndicate. Now she is thrilled to shoot alongside Team GB in her training for Olympic Trap.
For more sporting Dianas, seriously sporting ladies offering advice and encouragement, working vet Gillian Taylor is raising funds for the World Pheasant Association. And Louise Farmer hopes to inspire the next generation as a regional officer at BASC.
Wow, how did I get here? Well, I’m proud, I’ve spent 15 years living in this amazing country and now I can say it will be home forever and that I’m British, having taken my nationality oath last spring.
Growing up in Connecticut and New York I enjoyed spending time with my father, a quiet, cool guy who always reminded me of Clint Eastwood. He had a passion for handguns and time with him was shooting at the range and making ammo in the cellar.
At one point I felt inspired to join the New York Police Department as I was always active outdoors and loved law and helping others. As fate would have it, I was scouted and recruited instead by Ford Models in NYC to become a fashion model. I spent the next seven years globe-trotting to Japan, Australia and many other wonderful countries before finally settling down in Los Angeles.
It was here that I met my future husband, a Saudi sheikh from Eastern Province in Dhahran. I spent 10 years there raising three beautiful children. In 1994 we experienced a terrorist attack by al-Qaeda in our neighbourhood, which made us think about the future of our children.
Within a few days we were in Surrey, England, where I was introduced to the pleasures of shotguns and horses.
I hunted with the Surrey Union for five years and it gave me a deep appreciation of what beauty was in my own back fields, neighbouring farms and estates.
My greatest inspirations have been Surrey Union Joint Master and event rider Alice Dunsdon and Lulu Hutley, two of the toughest and bravest women I know.
Being the only lady gun starting out on a rough farm shoot for 10 years gave me roots and I had so much to learn. Since then I have travelled all over the country shooting as a member of a private and respected ladies’ syndicate and enjoyed personal days locally.
Snipe are at the top of my list – difficult to find, difficult to shoot. I shot a couple two years ago in a neighbouring field, which sit cased on my dining-room table.
Clothing styles for lady shooters have improved and it is always well received when I look smart in a skirt. I always wear a tie, showing my respect to the sport and in keeping with Ol’ School tradition.
I shoot with my Perazzi 20-bores early in the season on partridges and move on to my Perazzi 12s later on. I’ve shot lots of English Sporting competitions over the past seven years, with moderate success, and in 2018 I was pleased to win the ladies’ Surrey Supreme championship.
In February 2018 I decided to change my discipline to English Skeet. The style and pace can often improve your Sporting targets. After a few months on Skeet I asked my coach, David Dale, about having a go at Olympic Trap. I train most days at the National Clay Shooting Centre at Bisley and all the trap disciplines are there. After a few rounds, David just looked at me and said, “I don’t think you should bother with the England Skeet selection shoots as I see you have a knack for this.” I did persevere with Skeet and even shot the Open, finishing on a 90. However, I was just itching for Olympic Trap.
David put me forward to Chris Dean, one of the top coaches for the GB team and British Shooting Association. Chris’s expertise and personality are what inspires me every day I train. I am fortunate enough to train four or five days a week with competitions on weekends. I am honoured to be able to shoot alongside some of the top GB shooters in training. The likes of Charlotte Hollands, Steve Scott and Peter Wilson are pure inspiration.
Confidence is everything and doubting yourself, I hate to say, creeps in. Training wheels get put back on and you push yourself to get it right. Chris’s mantra to me is, “Working on the process; do it right and you’ll get the reward.”
TOP TIP: Be respectful of the quarry, your host and other guns. Be confident and you will succeed, take advice with a pinch of salt at times and take note of the words of my previous coach, John Heagren: “Trust yourself. I can. I will. Watch me!”