Matt Coward-Holley had become one of the leading lights of Double Trap in the last five years and was expected to do well leading up to Tokyo 2020, but the Olympic dream is off the table for him and others within the discipline – or that’s what Karan Gadhia thought…
While the future of Double Trap at the Olympics has been in danger for some time now, the ISSF’s recommendation to remove it from Tokyo 2020 came as a blow to many athletes around the world. To keep their dreams alive of representing their country on the biggest stage in the world, many shooters have been changing disciplines, with many switching to Olympic Trap.
The recommendation to remove Double Trap was made to help achieve gender equality in shooting as part of Agenda 2020, which is the International Olympic Committee’s plan for the Tokyo Olympics. It will be replaced by a Mixed Team Trap event and pistol and rifle events are also set to be affected by Agenda 2020 with the 50m rifle prone and 50m pistol events set to be usurped by a mixed 10m air rifle and a 10m air pistol event, respectively.
Matt Coward-Holley, a young athlete on British Shooting’s World Class Performance Programme, is one of the many shooters that have been affected by the changes. The 22-year-old had been shooting Double Trap for three years and has ambitions of reaching the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
He said: “The decision to remove Double Trap from the Olympics has been coming for some time. It was even talked about not being in the Rio Olympic cycle so it was something that we were all expecting to happen at some point, and it was just the uncertainty that was a bit of a pain.
“I had the option to shoot Trap before I shot Double Trap but I enjoyed Double Trap a lot more but now we haven’t got a choice. It was the uncertainty that made me change to Olympic Trap because it’s not going to go anywhere and we can train full-time knowing that it’s still going to be there in another 50 or 60 years. I knew I could always fall back on Double Trap if it stays but I thought I could make a bit of headway into Olympic Trap to get myself into the rankings and known in the Olympic Trap world.”
As well as affecting the Olympics, the uncertainty over the future of the discipline will have a knock-on effect on the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.
“I will be shooting Double Trap and Olympic Trap in the selection shoots for the Commonwealth Games. I can’t shoot both at the competition but if I am fortunate to qualify for them then I can choose between the two, but if not then I’ll have the other one to fall back on. It’s still also in the European and World Championships this year so our selection shoots still matter. It’s hard to say if Double Trap will remain in other things because none of us really know what they’re doing anyway. I think it will stay in the European and World Championships for however long they want it to. I personally think it all rides on what the IOC decide come the end of summer.”
Matt used to shoot Down The Line before switching to Double Trap. “I did struggle in a decision to change into an Olympic discipline because I was top of the tree and was regularly ranked number one in the Senior rankings even though I was a Junior. Changing disciplines meant going back to the bottom of the tree but I ended up breaking the Junior record at my second selection shoot. I wouldn’t say the transition to OT has been easy, but it’s possibly been simpler for me because I shot DTL before Double Trap, so it’s a bit like going back to my old days. There are some people in Double Trap who are trying to undo 10 years of shooting. We’ll all get there eventually but it’s going to take other people longer to adjust to the changes if they haven’t shot Trap before, as they’ll be starting completely from scratch.”
Most Double Trap shooters will need new guns to change disciplines, but Matt is one of the fortunate few who can use the same gun for both. “Because of the way that I shot Double Trap, the gun that I was using can be used for Olympic Trap as well, but most of my Double Trap teammates have been getting new guns.”
The removal of Double Trap hasn’t just affected shooters in this country, and some nations, including Pakistan, Italy and Canada, have been calling for an EGM. However, British Shooting was not one of the national organisations that are making those calls. In March, the funding body put a statement out on its website saying: “Having considered the matter in some depth, British Shooting will not be joining calls for an EGM, and will be working with the ISSF and, more importantly, our own athletes to ensure that we are well placed to succeed in the new Olympic programme if, and when, approved by the IOC.”
Matt said: “Everyone is the same boat because we’ve all put in a lot of time, effort and money into training in Double Trap to get to the Olympics and now we’ve got the evaluate whether we can shoot Olympic Trap. It is so much more accessible across the world, and even in this country a lot more grounds shoot Trap rather than Double due to the uncertainty of if it would be there in the next cycle. That was half the problem – people couldn’t get to places to shoot it because there was no point in piling that much time and effort into something that isn’t potentially going to be there in three years’ time.”
Double Trap has been one of Team GB’s strongest shooting events at the Olympics in recent years with Richard Faulds winning gold at Melbourne in 2000, Peter Wilson winning the gold medal in 2012 and Steve Scott’s bronze at Rio De Janiero last year. Matt said: “Double Trap has been Britain’s most successful discipline for a long time, and not just at the Olympics, but with more shooters moving disciplines, it will raise the bar for Olympic Trap shooting in the country. You’ve got a group of shooters moving into the discipline who’ve all shot abroad, we all know how to compete abroad so it’ll be good for Trap. You train just as hard, no matter what discipline you shoot in. If you want to be successful in anything, then you need to work hard.”
The Mixed Team Trap event is currently being trialled ahead of Tokyo 2020 and Matt has been selected to compete at the Cyprus World Cup in the event alongside Sharon Niven, as well as in the individual Olympic Trap competition.
He has been shooting Olympic Trap for several months now and recently won a Grand Prix event in Portugal. “I haven’t shot with Sharon before but I’ve been around the Trap discipline for a while now and I’m really looking forward to the Cyprus World Cup. I shot the highest score in Portugal and shot some big scores at home in a couple of registered competitions.”
The final decision of whether Double Trap will remain in the Tokyo 2020 rests in the hands of the IOC Executive board, which will be announced later this year. But whatever the outcome, the future of the sport will never be the same again.