When Peter Varley set the Australian record for 1000-yard long-range target shooting, he had his ophthalmologist Dr Lee Lenton to thank. Peter set the record when competing in Canberra this year - with a borrowed rifle. “I had left my rifle case keys at the motel and resigned myself to target butts duty or a lazy day. Fortunately a friend lent me his. After that, everything fell into place,” said Peter.
Peter, who is a SSAA member from Kureelpa near Nambour in Queensland, has spent his life devoted to long-range shooting. He is a left-handed shooter and all of his rifles are custom made. Now 69 years old, Peter’s sight remains his greatest sports asset. “Being at the top end of my shooting discipline, I consistently need to accurately focus on small numbers on my rifle scope, which is about 6" in front of me when I shoot,” he said.
“A few years ago, it started to become more difficult to see. When I shoot at 500 or 1000 yards, I have to read the wind and mirage. Because my eyesight was starting to fail, I was actually seeing two sets of mirage - the targets were blurred and I was seeing double flags. It was becoming extremely difficult to enjoy my sport.”
“Then during a checkup in late 2013, my optometrist said she could not increase the strength of my glasses any more. However, she did recommend I get in touch with Dr Lenton to see if I was eligible for lens replacement. I didn’t even know what that was at the time, but I was willing to try anything!”
A lens replacement is in effect replacing old eyes with new. It involves the removal of the natural lens of the eye and, in its place, inserting an artificial lens. This procedure is, in fact, exactly the same as cataract surgery, except the lens isn’t cloudy - it’s done purely for the purpose of improving focusing power.
Peter didn’t hesitate when Dr Lee Lenton told him about the procedure. “It’s really difficult shooting while wearing glasses - they are a hindrance rather than a help. Dr Lenton said that the artificial lenses used in surgery are all customised to the individual. So, we worked out that I needed a multi focal, multi range artificial lens.”
Peter had the procedure performed at Vision Eye Institute on both eyes in early December 2014. He says it immediately made a huge difference to him. “Right after my eyes were done, I didn’t need my glasses anymore. I could read the telephone book, magazines, newspapers - anything.”
“I have had no side effects and my post-operative check up showed that everything was good as gold. Plus, I returned to the shooting range and found I could actually shoot better than ever.”
On March 9, 2015, Peter shot an Australian record (and an unconfirmed Southern Hemisphere record) of 2.01" for five shots. This feat was so impressive that it was covered in US shooting media. In June, he did it all again and shot the 500m Australian record (five shots in 1", which was verified by three national scorers).
“I truly believe that these results are due to my newfound confidence - my improved sight has made a massive difference. I think it is absolutely amazing and it has just transformed my whole outlook on life,” said Peter.