As the 2012 Olympic countdown heats up, Vic Harker looks into who could be in contention for the Olympic win
Part of the appeal of competing in the International disciplines is the many countries it takes you to and the people you meet.
In the early 1990s I was target shooting business manager worldwide for the Browning Winchester group when they were owned by GIAT, a French armaments company.
Some of the people I met in those years and kept in touch with include Albano Pera. I first knew him as a Trap shooter, a two times European Champion, the first time in 1988 and then 1993 and an Olympic silver medallist for Double Trap at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
For some years now Albano has been the Italian Trap team manager, and so whenever I need some information on Italian shooters and shooting he is my contact. I was talking to him on the day he and his team were flying out to Belgrade for the European Championships. Both the Italian teams, men’s and ladies, have their quota places for the London Olympics and their main concern in Belgrade is to win some medals.
In spite of this, at present there is only one Italian Trap shooter in the top 10 world rankings. I asked Albano for his comments on this unusual situation. “Some things do not always go well” he said rather enigmatically, “but we have been training hard and hope to do well in Belgrade.”
As a former champion himself, Albano understands shooters have their ups and downs and he reminds me how Giovanni Pellielo got his quota place at the first opportunity and Rudolfo Vigano soon afterwards. The Ladies team were early quota place winners too and so Albano has great confidence in his team.
I suggested the Italians were taking things easy and enjoying watching the other countries sweat it out to win their places. “Not so” he says “the opposition gets stronger every year”. Perhaps he was thinking of the current World and European Champion Alberto Fernandez of Spain – second in the rankings – and the new sensation from Turkey, Oguzhan Tuzun, the gold medallist in this year’s World Cup shoot in Chile – not to mention the world’s current number one Russian Alexey Alipov.
Albano was keen to emphasise that rankings can change very quickly and there are two opportunities in the World and European Championships in Belgrade this month so things may look very different after that. The Italian team for the European Championship is Giovanni Pellielo; Rudolfo Vigano and Massimo Fabbrizi. As to the team for London 2012, Albano has no intention of announcing it until next year.
When I spoke to the world’s number one Olympic Skeet shooter, Tore Brovold, he was also leaving for Belgrade in two day’s time. I congratulated him on his present ranking but he reminded me that it was about to change after going into the final of the recent World Cup in Maribor on 124ex-125 and then shooting a 21 and finishing sixth.
He can console himself, however, with his quota place for London and having finished in the finals of all four World Cups this year. The scores in Men’s Skeet this season have been extraordinarily high, Tore believes this is down to the extra incentive the Olympic quotas provide; “everybody has been trying harder, it’s as simple as that” he says.
With some excellent results this year but few medals, Tore is set on changing that situation in the European and World Championships – “I will fight like a lion” he said. Fighting talk from a likeable man, let’s hope he gets his medal – but not at the expense of the British of course.
There is also news from Tore regarding possible rules changes for Olympic Skeet after the 2012 Games. It seems there is a possibility in future for the six shooters in the final to have their scores returned to zero with the last 25 targets deciding the medals. There might also be a change in the sequence of targets involving more doubles. Nothing is decided but it seems these rule changes would be only introduced in ISSF Championships.
It’s been a difficult year for the reigning Olympic Trap Champion from the 2008 Beijing Games David Kostelecky. In March his mother was diagnosed with cancer and inevitably this bad news affected him greatly.
On the bright side he and his new wife, Skeet shooter Lenka Bartekova, now have a son who keeps them awake at night, so while the birth was a joyous event the outcome as many of you know can be gruelling.
Not ideal circumstances to train for the Olympics, perhaps, and while David has shot well this summer it has not been quite good enough and with Czech teammates Gach and Liptak winning quota places at the Beijing and Munich World Cups, there is a possibility he may not be able to defend his Olympic title in London.
“Things are not going quite right this year” he says, “but I can redeem the situation if I shoot really well in the European and World Championships – I intend to fight hard”. I sincerely hope David does make it to the London Olympics, not just because he’s a great champion; he’s also a great guy.
Due to a lot of effort and sound judgement on Ian Coley’s part, the British Double Trap Team has some strength in depth, both Peter Wilson and Richard Faulds have performed magnificently this year winning a quota place apiece at the first two World Cups of the season.
As Ian Coley points out though, nobody is guaranteed a place in the Olympics.
I’ve been talking to Stevan Walton, one of the Double Trap shooters that make up the aforementioned strength in depth. Stevan is 26 years old and has been shooting since he was eight. He made the English DTL Team at 14 and subsequently captained it on a number of occasions.
He started shooting Double Trap eight years ago and was a Junior bronze medallist at the 2003 European Championships and a silver World Cup medallist as a Senior in 2005. Since then he has put in some solid performances and at the Commonwealth Games in India last year he took the gold medal in the pairs and the individual event and is looking to achieve more.
Having qualified for the Commonwealth Games, he told the company he was working for as a fork lift driver that he would be going to India, his reward was the sack! With quota places already won by Wilson and Faulds, Stevan has got to do something special to persuade Ian Coley he should take one of the places for the London Games and will get his chance in Belgrade.
I think it’s great that we have an Olympic shooting team that frightens the opposition, there are no free quota places to London for the Double Trap team – but I do like Walton’s attitude, he’s a fighter, so let the best man win.
Kevin is a man under pressure: as British Olympic Trap coach and without a single quota place won by his Trap shooters, he now has only the European Championships in Belgrade where there are five men’s quota places and three women’s for the Trap events to be won, but only a single place is available in the World Championships later in the month.
Charlotte Kerwood, funded by UK Sport, is Kevin’s main concern but he has shouldered the responsibilities of the other shooters in an acting unpaid capacity and has dedicated himself to helping the whole team as much as possible.
I spoke to him at the Ian Coley Shooting School the day before he left for Belgrade and he was cautiously optimistic that Kerwood had made sufficient improvements in her technique recently to get a quota place in the European Championships.
Aaron Heading, with his bronze medal at the World Cup at Maribor earlier this month and missing out on his ticket to London by a whisker, must remain our best chance in the Men’s event for a quota place, but Ed Ling should be with him in the team.
Ed may not be able to find his way to China on his own, but he is by far the most experienced Trap shooter in the rankings at present. He’s the only man we have in contention for a quota place with previous Olympic experience: he competed in the Athens Games in 2004 and was last year’s World and European UT Champion.
With as much potential as Heading set to win a quota place at this crucial moment, Ling is left to languish on the side lines, fourth in the rankings. The reason for this is the International Board’s adherence to the first-past-the-post selection procedure, in the aftermath of the Leighton Dyson era.
That, however, was a different situation: young shooters were chosen arbitrarily in front of others who were obviously better qualified, presumably to gain experience of losing. The squad system does make sound sense though, when those currently on form are selected rather than sticking to a rigid pecking order. The absence of Ling from the Trap team for the European Championships in Belgrade could be a crucial mistake on the Board’s part.