Mike Bartlett finishes off a full month of Sporting shoots with a trip to the European Fitasc Championships in Hungary
We began this month with the England Sporting selection shoot at Barbury. A windy Saturday was forecast, so it was a busy shoot on the Sunday. There were some big targets and tough sim pairs, exactly as there should be at a Sporting shoot, but there was also a good balance, including some easier stuff.
Cheryl and I didn’t start well, dropping most of our targets on the easier stuff, but we improved as the day went on. Cheryl ended up on 80 and I managed 84. Meanwhile, Billy Baughan put in a truly exceptional 95 to finish two clear of the field.
That was the last of our English Sporting shoots for a while; we switched to Fitasc for the England Selection Shoot at Westfield. We started on the hardest layout of the competition.
Cheryl shot an incredible 24 ex-25 there, which wasn’t equalled by anyone all day, and ended up joint third on 89 ex-100; she also won the Ladies. I struggled to begin with, and although I shot better on the other three layouts, the first one scuppered my chances.
To keep the Fitasc practice going, the following weekend we went to Forhill and shot the whole course gun-down. It proved to be great practice – Cheryl won High Gun with 91, and I was runner up with 90.
After the round we went over the stands that weren’t sim pairs and shot them as sim pairs gun-down to get some practice for the following week. It was fun to relax and do something a bit different.
The following Tuesday we flew out to Hungary for the European Fitasc Championships. This was set on virgin ground just outside of Gant. The practice layouts were at the base camp and minibuses were transporting everyone to the layouts.
New rules for this year meant that the course setter couldn’t shoot their own targets; the layouts were completely new, and no one had practised on them, as has been possible in some previous competitions.
This made a big difference, with the usual Italian winners not figuring in the end result, except for one Veteran who shot very well all week.
The ground was amazing, with layouts in big old aluminium quarries, in patches of woodland and on open ground. Patrick Russo, the course designer, had done an amazing job.
There were even two driven targets, which are usually unheard of abroad. A lot of work had gone into the new courses; new paths and features were sculptured into the banks, and steps had been put in to help traverse the ground’s undulating terrain.
Rain caused problems on the practice days and the first day of competition, so temporary stone roadways were put in, reportedly at a cost of €80,000.
On the first day of the competition, constant light rain was punctuated by heavy showers. Cheryl shot the hardest layouts on the first day, shooting an incredible 45 ex-50, which no other lady shooting in the competition would beat.
She was second in Ladies after day one. Beatriz Laparra Cuenca, one of her biggest rivals, had shot a 46 on the layouts Cheryl would shoot the following day.
On day two, Cheryl shot a 44 ex-50, but the Russian Aigul Mubarakshina, who had shot 41 on the first day, shot an incredible 49 ex-50 on the same layouts to take the lead by one target. Meanwhile, Beatriz dropped just behind Cheryl. It was going to be a three-horse race.
On day three, Beatriz was shooting one of the easiest layouts, but she shot a couple lower than expected. Cheryl shot a great 46 and took the lead going into the final day. Aigul didn’t have a good day, and Beatriz moved into second with two layouts to go.
The final day came, and Cheryl was nervous. It was clear to see how much she wanted a major win. She shot in the morning’s second squad, holding it together brilliantly and recording a great 44, which meant she was guaranteed at least second.
Beatriz was finishing on the tough layouts Cheryl had started with. We sat in a pizza restaurant constantly checking the scores. If Beatriz shot a 20 or lower on her first layout it meant that Cheryl would be crowned Champion.
Beatriz’s score came in, and it was a 19, her lowest score of the week! We cracked open a beer to celebrate. Beatriz shot a 20 on her second layout, meaning that Cheryl won by an incredible seven clays in the end. She won the European Cup too.
There were many Brits who did well but a few deserve special mentions. First must go to Mark Winser for winning overall with an incredible 191.
What made it even more spectacular was Mark was shooting with the two other guys who were tied for first place going into the last day, and he shot 50 straight.
That’s a great way to win it! Steve Brightwell, who coached Cheryl when she first started, was in third or fourth position all week and ended up just missing out on a podium place after losing a shoot-off for third.
Steve won Vets, team Vets gold and was fourth overall. He also won the European Cup. Not bad for a guy who had to be persuaded to go at the last minute!
A last-mention must go to the three Juniors representing GBR for the first time: Will Fenner, Josh Bennion and Charlie Monahan. They won team gold, and Will Fenner was runner up in juniors.
Josh and Will also placed in the European Cup. It was great to see three great lads do so well – the future looks promising for our sport.
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