Olympic Trap shooter Ellie Seward interview

OT star Ellie Seward with Jasper Fellows on how shooting takes her around the world.

Ellie flew to Australia to shoot for England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Where were you at 22? I was selling TV’s, desperately trying to scrape together enough commission to cover the weekend’s cartridges while dreaming of travelling the world, experiencing new cultures and maybe getting in a bit of shooting along the way.

And yet at 22, Ellie Seward has already achieved the dream that I’m still attempting to realise. Since she started shooting just six short years ago, she has represented England and Great Britain across the globe, bagging trophies and breaking records.

Ellie is a true representation of the benefit of low price, simple, have-a-go sessions. She isn’t from a long line of famous shooters, but was hooked from her first clay break.

“My dad shot a bit of Sporting when he was younger, but other than that no one else in the family has really been involved with shooting at all,” says Ellie of her humble beginnings. “Six years ago I followed my dad to a small Sporting event, where they had a ‘have-a-go’ stand set up for visitors.”

“It was a simple introduction to the sport, but I really enjoyed it. When the opportunity arose to try DTL a few months later I jumped at the chance and found myself on the stands as a regular DTL shooter for the next nine months or so.”

Throwing oneself into a new hobby can be a daunting experience. Finding your feet – and new friends – can be challenging. Luckily, Ellie quickly found a family of experienced shooters who were more than happy to welcome her into their world.

“When I first started I had lots of influences and so many people wanted to help, which was lovely. I was lucky enough to meet the Ling family very early on. They live and shoot locally to me and they have all been extremely supportive from the beginning. Seeing how well they’d all done through their careers really inspired me to push my shooting further.”

With the support of the Lings, and other local shooters, Ellie threw herself wholeheartedly into her new sport, taking every opportunity to try new disciplines. “During those nine months as a DTL shooter I worked my way through the different trap disciplines. I still enjoy ABT and UT but I really found my home with Olympic Trap,” she explains.

By 2015, just over a year after her first ever ‘have-a-go’ session, Ellie felt ready to take on the world. “2015 was a big year for me. It was the first time I took part in a Team GB Junior OT selection shoot, which led to me representing Great Britain as a Junior at the World Cup in Suhl.

“This was later followed by my selection for the Junior Ladies category at the 2015 European Championships in Slovenia and the 2015 World Championships in Lonato. Jess Moore, Zara Dunford and I left Slovenia that year with Junior Ladies Team bronze, which was amazing.”

Clearly Ellie’s career was off to a flying start, but it would take another year until Ellie really understood her potential as one of the UK’s most devastating young shots.

“My first major Senior medal came in 2016, at the English Open held at Brook Bank Shooting Ground. I’d shot well enough to win the Junior Ladies gold and place myself in the Senior Ladies final. I continued to shoot well throughout the final and found myself in a sudden death shoot off with Commonwealth Games 2014 bronze medallist Caroline Povey.

“I could have taken the gold if it wasn’t for one slight left hander that got away from me. I ended the day with a Senior Ladies silver, which was fantastic, but that one clay will stay with me forever! A mixture of inexperience and nerves cost me the gold, but I definitely learnt more than I lost that day.”

Spurred on by this rather literal near miss, Ellie propelled herself into her 2017 season with renewed vigour and an understanding that even as a Junior she could take on the Seniors and win.

“The 2017 Olympic Trap UK Championships held at Griffin Lloyd Shooting Ground was another defining moment for boosting my shooting confidence,” she explains. “I won both the Junior and Senior Ladies gold and realised that I really could go somewhere with my shooting.”

Now UK OT Ladies Champion, Ellie had marked herself out as a force to be reckoned with. “Throughout 2017 I took part in a number of Team England selection shoots, as well as the British Championships and English Open.

“I had set my eyes on representing England as a Senior and wanted the chance to compete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.”

The road to national stardom can be tough. “To qualify for the Commonwealth Games I had to shoot a series of selection events and position myself at the top of a leader board of hopefuls,” explains Ellie.

“The last event of the series was held at Nuthampstead Shooting Ground. I was on a squad with Abbey Ling and we both shot well, finding ourselves going into the final on equal scores at the end of the day.”

“Unfortunately my shooting fell apart in the final. I was devastated, believing I had come so close but fallen at the final hurdle. Then, once the dust had settled, I was told that I’d shot well enough during the rest of the series to secure my place at the Commonwealth Games! I was so confused, but so happy at the same time, a real whirlwind of emotions.”

Having been selected to compete at the Commonwealth Games, Ellie was welcomed into Team England with open arms and was soon flying off to Australia’s Gold Coast.

“Flying to the other side of the world to compete at the Commonwealth Games was a surreal experience. The Games would be the biggest event I had ever shot, and it was my first international competition as a Senior. I was very nervous, but also very excited.

“Knowing that my family would be flying out to join me and watch the event filled me with joy and I can’t think of a better excuse to visit such a beautiful country.”

Despite failing to medal in Australia, Ellie gained valuable experience coping with the world watching her every move. “The games taught me to trust in my shooting ability and helped me to improve my ability to block out background noise.

“Even the quietest event will have distractions that could divert your attention and lead to dropped targets, but I learnt that  I can accept these distractions and refocus on the task at hand.”

Once the Commonwealth Games were over, Ellie continued her jet setting by visiting both the World Championships in South Korea and The European Championships in Austria. She also qualified for three World Cup events to take place the following year.

As well as those three World Cups, 2019 also provided an added challenge for Ellie, completing her Sports Development and Coaching degree and handing in her dissertation on time.

“Trying to complete my degree while training and competing wasn’t easy,” she says. “But my teammates and fellow shooters were incredibly helpful, they all happily became my research subjects despite their equally busy calendars.

“Without this support from the shooting community, and from my friends and family outside of the shooting world, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am also very lucky to have sponsors who do more than just supply me with equipment, but support me through the good and the bad.

“For example: Fiocchi UK – they have always been fantastic in supplying me with cartridges for practice and competition, but they also welcome me with open arms whenever I pop into their offices for a catch-up.

Showing off the medals: Ellie with Sharon Niven (L) and Kirsty Hegarty (R) at the British Shooting Shotgun Series 2018

“GMK have been brilliant too – they supplied me with my gorgeous Beretta DT11 and even took me on a tour of the amazing Beretta factory and gun museum in Italy while I had a custom stock made. Then there’s Plugzz, who provide my hearing protection and help to ensure I get a good night’s sleep before an event.”

Support from friends, family and sponsors was more important than ever throughout 2020. “I was looking forward to the 2020 season,” says Ellie. “My coach Marco Michelli and I spent the latter half of 2019 putting together a training regime so that I would be on top of my game for 2020.

Ellie’s kit: her Beretta DT11, Fiocchi Official cartridges, Plugzz hearing protection and Castellani vest

“Of course global events have hampered the shooting season this year, but I have tried to keep on top of my training as best I can. I was able to work on my fitness and gun mounts from home during lockdown. It was tricky trying to keep on form, but I had a lot of fun entertaining Instagram with some mock up training in the back garden.

“I was very pleased to be able to get back out onto the grounds once the lockdown started to be lifted. I’d really missed seeing all of my shooting friends.

Ellie and team mate Aaron Heading, British Shooting Mixed Pair OT Champions 2018

“For the past six years we’ve been spending every summer together, travelling and competing, and it’s been wonderful to be able to see some of them again.

“I don’t know if I will be able to shoot any competitions this year, it’s all a bit of a waiting game, and rightly so. But I’m really looking forward to getting back out and competing alongside all of my shooting friends while working on being as successful a shooter as I possibly can be.”

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