As we kick off 2016 in style, we thought it would be appropriate to share a few memories from the past 12 months.
The start of the year began like many others at Royal Berkshire Shooting School, which teamed up with Stratstone of Mayfair for the final of a multi-week competition that uses the ground’s high tower to launch a sequence of driven targets. The winner could take home a car if they hit 23 out of the 25 targets, but many felt this wasn’t possible. Mark Winser didn’t. He coolly shot 25-straight to win a Range Rover Autobiography worth £130,000, plus a Rolex watch worth £5,000. This kicked off his period of dominance on the domestic English Sporting circuit.
A month later, Sporting shooters travelled to Dubai for another big-prize competition. In its second year, the Nad Al Sheba Desert Shooting Competition didn’t disappoint. While there were reports of tough shooting in mixed weather conditions, Britain secured several shooters in the top lot. Phill Gray represented the men, while Katie Brown returned to international shooting with style in the women’s division. Cheryl Hall proved to be the big story back home: She conquered the competition to finish one target ahead of Sweden’s Anna Jarnald.
While British shooters started the ISSF season slowly, Skeet’s Vincent Hancock of the USA did no such thing and blasted his way to a flawless victory in Mexico.
Mark Winser won the Essex Masters after a shoot-off with his good friend Mark Marshall. Away from home, George Digweed began an unprecedented four months of international clay shooting with a win at the CPSA/NSCA World English Sporting Championships in Florida, USA.
While the Handicap Classic returned in roaring fashion with a second car – a Rolls Royce – being won at Royal Berkshire by Jamie Passant, Scott Barnett continued his good form at the Benelli Sp’Auto after winning the first Sporting selection shoot of the year. He put himself in a good position to be on a CSOTY shortlist if he continued in that vein.
The English Open proved to be a massive success when it travelled to Lowestoft in Suffolk at John Bidwell’s High Lodge. It also marked another notch in the return of Katie Brown to the top of the Ladies category. Stuart Rudling worked hard to earn himself a place in the final, where he won a dramatic shoot-off. Matt French showed good early form and started a period of dominance in Double Trap on the domestic circuit. Scotland’s Stewart Cummings continued to shoot well, but managed to take the big cash prize south of the border at the Troy Foods FITASC. Ian Mullarkey started his year off well at the Krieghoff DTL – his second consecutive victory and a third win overall. Ed, Abbey and Theo Ling shot well as a family at the Olympic Trap English Open, and Steve Brightwell conquered the FITASC EO event after beating Fred Townsend in a shoot-off.
In international FITASC, Fred Townsend continued shooting well and topped the Super Veterans category at the European Championship. Cheryl Hall won the Ladies event for a seventh consecutive year and Jake Moore topped all other Juniors. All competitors were beaten by Hungarian András Szerdahelyi for the overall championship, including George Digweed by just one target.
Simon Hill won his first English Skeet English Open, while Joy Hirons began an awesome year by winning the Ladies category. Matt Coward-Holley showed he can shoot with the best of them when he won the Double Trap English Open, while Mark Winser continued to dominate in Sporting by winning the FITASC Grand Prix.
Ed Ling continued to shoot well as the British team travelled to Baku, Azerbaijan for the first European Games. While he finished in a creditable fourth place, it was Amber Hill who stormed back to form at the right time and held her nerve against Diana Bacosi in a 15-target sudden-death.
Despite being disappointed in Baku, Ed Ling returned to win the ABT English Open while another Trap discipline was hotting up at Bywell in Northumberland. The Dougall Memorial weekend also saw the English Open take place. While Jim Doherty repeated his performance to take the trophy that turns 125 this year, the English Open was won by Michael Turner.
Mark Winser won his third consecutive Clay Shooting Classic in style at Windrush Shooting Ground. A cool 144 matched his scores from 2013 and 2014. He challenged for the Classic Sportrap title, but 250 targets in one day was too much and it came down to Martin Myers and the man that had the trophy for nine years, Paul Simpson. Martin won, giving the championship cup a new home.
Outside of Britain, George Digweed and Cheryl Hall were on target destruction duty in Estonia as they cruised to Compak World Championship wins. Cheryl led the Ladies team to victory alongside Amy Easeman and Linda Grayson. Mark Marshall topped the Beretta World Sporting and Cheryl showed she still knew how to handle her old shotgun at West Midlands Shooting Ground for the Ladies win.
The DTL British Open was run alongside the Home International, and Michael Turner doubled up on his English Open victory earlier in the year to take the individual crown while England was dominant in the team competition. Matthew French achieved the same feat as Michael in his Double Trap discipline and won the British Open.
George Digweed and Cheryl Hall showed that the FITASC disciplines belonged to them this year as they travelled to Minnesota, USA, for the Sporting World Championship. George notched his third world title in just four months and the 26th of his career.
Joy Hirons continued her supremacy in the Ladies English Skeet category at the British Open, which saw Peter Bloomfield come out on top for the second year running. At the DTL European Championship, Marty Smith shocked himself when he beat Austin Coxhead and Paul Chaplow to the top spot of the podium for the first time at an international competition.
The ISSF European Championships were successful for the British team, with Men’s Double Trap finishing with gold and the Women’s Skeet team taking bronze. At the Gabala World Cup a few weeks later, Amber Hill won a bronze medal. Steve Scott shot well in Double Trap to claim silver and pick up a quota place for Britain. And with no time to spare, Tim Kneale headed to the ISSF World Championship to win a silver medal and an Olympic quota place in the last event possible ahead of Rio 2016.
At the Sporting British Open, Veteran Steve fought off many younger, on-form talents such as Mark Winser, Aaron Harvey and John Lee – all of whom had won big events already in 2015 – to win the British Open. As he has never won the title before, this was arguably the biggest achievement of Steve’s shooting career to-date. Cheryl Hall continued to raise the bar in the Ladies competition.
In another Sporting competition, the Home International, England did well in the team rounds but Scotland’s Ladies stopped a sweep of the categories. Junior Josh Bridges won the individual competition. In the Sportrap British Open, Martin Myers was High Gun.
Ed Ling managed a top score at the ABT Home International and British Open to lead a strong England squad, but Northern Ireland won the Ladies and Juniors competitions. In DTL, Ian Mullarkey sustained his winning ways and claimed the Perazzi Grand Prix at Bywell. And Gary Cooke went perfect at the Skeet Home International, while Joy Hirons remained unbeaten at major competitions in 2015.
Ben Husthwaite rounded off the Sporting calendar with a big win at the White Gold Challenge. Michael Gilligan overcame a tough year in Olympic Skeet to claim his third Grand Prix, while Amber Hill won the Ladies category. Nick Marsden did well at the NSSA World Championships to finish Third Overall. And Ian Mullarkey shot to the top of the Gamebore Platinum Trap Grand Prix for another big win.
To close the year, one of the hardest-working men in clay shooting, Martin Myers, travelled with the England team to shoot the ICTSF Sporting World Championship in South Africa. He reached the final against people who had been winning big competitions all year, including Mark Winser and George Digweed, but Martin shot his way to victory and his first world championship.
At the ISSF World Cup Final, there were no quota places available as it was made up of a collection of World Cup winners from this year. But on the opening day, Amber Hill, Steve Scott and Tim Kneale shot in their respective categories of Olympic Skeet and Double Trap. Of the two gold medals available, Britain brought them both home. Tim Kneale competed well and reached the bronze medal match but couldn’t quite make it three-out-of-three for medals.
With that, the major competition season closed for 2015 apart from a few additional shoots like the Schools Challenge anniversary and a few winter series events. But now, we look ahead to a brand new year, that will feature more world championships, the Olympics and plenty of empty cartridge cases.
Happy New Year.