When the ISSF pulled the plug on Double Trap, they cut Olympic gold medallist Peter Wilson’s dreams off at the knees. Benjamin Lycett finds out how this led to the most dramatic comeback in shooting
Sitting in picturesque surroundings in a cosy cabin, Griffin-Lloyd Shooting Ground on the border of England and Wales plays host for this month’s special interviewee.
Relocating from Dorset, I have the privilege of speaking with Olympic gold medallist Peter Wilson. In between a busy training schedule and moving house, Peter and I sit down to discuss his new goals,
his hopes for the future, what will happen in Tokyo and more.
Peter, it’s a pleasure to see you step back into the sport. Before we jump into the whys and wherefores, what have you been up to during your retirement?
Well, I got married (I mustn’t forget that or my wife will kill me) and, of course, I’ve been shooting – but also coaching.
I’ve been coaching a young man called James Dedman. He was 15 when we began working together and I have to say that the last four years have been amazing – he’s gone from strength to strength. This year he has won the Junior World and European Championships, set a Junior world record and is now the Junior world number one – all incredibly impressive for someone who is only 19.
Alongside all of this, I took over my parents’ farm. However, I wouldn’t try to pretend that I’m a farmer of any merit.
So what lured you back?
This is a contentious question because a year ago the International Shoot Sports Federation chose to reconsider the inclusion of Double Trap, 50-Metre Prone and 50-Metre Pistol in the Olympics. There was talk that perhaps they would be replaced by mixed team events. In March, they voted to remove all three disciplines and Double Trap was replaced by Mixed Trap team.
This led me to question my future because I was an Olympic coach. I wanted to coach an Olympic gold medallist and that dream was stolen from me. I can’t pretend that I’m not a little bitter, but I’ve had to get used to it and in the process of all this I’ve had to decide what I want to do next. James and I agreed that I wouldn’t continue to coach him but I would be around mentor him if needed.
I thought long and hard about my future – whether I should go into farming or retrain entirely – but at 31 I ultimately felt that I had more to offer the shooting community. I shot both Trap and Skeet, but particularly enjoyed Trap, possibly because of its similarities to Double Trap.
At first I shot in order to pass on what I learned to James, but I grew to love it and realised just how much I missed shooting. I never set out to win the Olympics – yes, it was always at the back of my mind, but the road is long and winding, and I am very realistic about that.
What are the impacts of your decision and why move from Dorset?
It has a huge impact on your family because you have to be incredibly selfish. You need them to be 110 per cent behind you as it takes up so much of your time, affecting your earning capacity, your time with loved ones and friends and, of course, your routine and diet. It’s imperative to have them on your side or it simply won’t work.
I don’t go into things half-heartedly; I do them to the best of my ability and push myself to be the best I can be. I am actually very lucky – my wife, Michelle, is hugely supportive. She agreed at the drop of a hat to move nearer to Griffin-Lloyd, which has all the facilities I need and the ability to shoot everyday from dawn til dusk. JK, Joyce and Jackie couldn’t have been more accommodating when I came to see them and explain why I’d like to make Griffin-Lloyd Shooting Ground my home.
None of this is to say that other ranges weren’t suitable, but I guess being three hours from our parents is a huge help.
With all this being said, how is the training going and what difficulties do you perceive?
Training never goes well, and anyone who says it does is lying. It’s tough – it’s an Olympic discipline, it’s supposed to be difficult. I believe in muscle memory and therefore shoot a lot, it’s that simple. I need to break through that difficult period where I miss erratically but I’m working through it one step at a time, making sure that I leave no stone unturned.
I train hard, shooting between 250 and 1,500 a day, every day. Not everyone agrees with me but, as a friend of mine once said: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Will you be ready for Tokyo?
At the moment, I really don’t know. It’s a bigger challenge than I faced in London but that excites me. All I can say is that I will do everything in my power to get the best out of myself over the next three years, and that I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I had at least a small chance.
Who is your biggest competition?
When I was younger, I shot a lot of Sporting and I remember picking out individuals I had to beat. In the long run, it didn’t do me any favours and I soon learnt that my performance hinged not on me focusing on others, but instead on the clay itself.
Who do you look up to in the sport?
Ahmed Al Maktoum – he’s one of the greatest shots that I’ve ever been lucky enough to compete against. He’s one hell of a competitor! I was extremely lucky to not only shoot against him but be coached by him.
How do you prepare yourself from a retired mindset to a competitive one again?
I don’t think I ever stopped competing with myself. I want to be the best I can be at whatever I’m doing – the best husband, the best coach, the best shot and so on.
Can you put into words why you won in London?
I would say that one of my biggest attributes was my mental preparation. I felt as though I was the most mentally prepared for that competition, the mentally strongest. It’s a ballsy thing to say, as I’m sure others would say the same, but you have to believe in yourself – especially when others around you don’t. In those nail-biting moments, you cannot allow self-doubt to take hold.
Tell me about your equipment?
Unusually, I combine a Perazzi MX2005 25mm high rib with a Nill Griffe Eurosign EvoComp stock, which is made in Germany by a man called Wilfried Nill. The shape of my hand is sculpted to the grip, giving me an unrivalled connection with the gun.
I spend a lot of time testing cartridges and found NSI to be the most consistent across the board. Not a lot of people know that I won my quota place in South America using NSI and, unsurprisingly, I have loved them ever since.
I wear a GT International Skeet vest made by a lovely lady called Pamela Cook in Australia.
I’m one of the lucky few eyesight-wise. After an eye test, it was concluded I don’t need a tint to enhance what I’m seeing. I prefer not to wear them, as abroad you don’t have to, but in the UK you do, in which case I wear clear lenses. I like also to cut out all noise so I wear earplugs and muffs – the Peltor medium-sized ones.
Who are your sponsors and supporters?
Dr Geoffrey and Kate Guy, who have been simply amazing in helping me to make the transition from Olympic Double Trap to Olympic Trap and in enabling me to move to Wales.
Edgar Brothers, who import NSI, without whom I wouldn’t have the ammunition to back me up. I’ve also set up a sponsorship vehicle called AIM 175, and to all those who have supported it I owe a huge debt
You’re embarking on a new life and adventure. What are your hopes for the future?
It’s a difficult one to answer as you never know what the future holds. It can spin on a ten-pence piece but, as you know, I would love to win another Olympic gold medal. After that, I would like to give other people the opportunities that I’ve had, which means having a base of my own, a shooting range, like Griffin-Lloyd, and to open up the sport to as many people as I possibly can.