Time to change… Matt French explains why he’s ditching Trap and pursuing a career in Olympic Skeet
No one likes change. We like the familiar – change brings uncertainty. But if there is one thing we can be certain of in this life, it’s that nothing ever stays the same. Change also brings new opportunities and the possibility of new exciting adventures, and maybe in my case the chance to carry on the pursuit of a long held dream to compete at the Olympic Games.
After 12 years of pacing up and down Double Trap ranges, the inevitable prospect of change has come knocking. The ISSF’s decision to remove Double Trap from the Olympic programme has been devastating for countless shooters around the world and has left everyone with the same conundrum: change disciplines or retire.
For me, the initial decision to carry on and focus on a new event was easy. At 36 years old, I still feel like I have a lot to give, and without a doubt, I’m still improving as a shooter and competitor. Most of my Double Trap friends have moved over to Olympic Trap, which does seem the more natural choice, but for me it wasn’t such a straightforward decision.
I tried Trap on and off over the first few months of this year, but when push came to shove I jumped ship to Skeet. I shot Skeet many years ago in the early days of my competitive career, and with training facilities close to home at EJ Churchill, it eventually became the obvious choice. With a busy full-time job and a young family at home, spending hours on the road travelling to train just wasn’t an option, especially after spending years doing a four-hour round trip to Nuthampstead every time I wanted to shoot Double Trap.
I knew from the outset that this wasn’t going to be an easy or quick process but I can take encouragement that it has been done before.
The greatest female shotgun shooter of all time (in my opinion), Kimberly Rhode, has claimed six Olympic medals. The first three were in Double Trap – a gold in Atlanta in 1996 and Athens in 2004 and a bronze in Sydney in 2000. After Athens, the ISSF pulled the plug on Women’s Double Trap, so Kimberly turned her attention to Olympic Skeet with amazing success. Silver in Beijing 2008, followed by gold in London 2012 and then bronze in Rio 2016 has sealed Kimberly’s place among the world’s sporting greats.
Then there are two other great American shooters, Todd Graves and Dan Carlisle, both now team USA coaches who successfully switched between Trap and Skeet. Dan Carlisle was a world champion at Olympic Skeet but also won world championship silver in Trap along with an Olympic bronze. Todd Graves won World Cup golds and Olympic bronze in Trap but also won multiple World Cup medals in Skeet and a bronze in Double Trap, making him the only person in history to win medals at all three ISSF shotgun events.
My own achievements pale into insignificance against these giants of the sport, but my own personal goals still drive me on to make the switch.
My next issue was the gun. The only gun I’ve owned for years is my beloved Perazzi MX2005 high rib Trap gun, and I could not afford to just go out and buy a new Skeet gun. We all need a bit of luck from time to time and, happily, I got a slice of it, courtesy of Edgar Brothers.
What started as a simple conversation about switching cartridges to NSI eventually ended up with them sponsoring me with a beautiful Zoli Z gun. From this moment on, the transition from Double Trap to Olympic Skeet has been making steady progress.
I have been keen to not put any pressure on myself in terms of scores, but with the success of some of my team mates, namely Steve Scott and Matt Coward Holley in Olympic Trap taking joint High Gun at the last GB trials at Nuthampstead on 123ex-125, I could feel the pressure building for me to throw my hat into the ring at the last GB Skeet trials of the year at South Wales 2000. I did so, and 115ex-125 tied me for sixth place – a great result in my book, especially at this early stage, and better than I had expected.
I still have a couple of Double Trap shoots ahead of me before my attention fully turns to Skeet, and with plenty of time now through winter to hone the new techniques, I’m quite hopeful that next season will bring with it some early success to my very long-term plans.