The work has just begun: Anita North interviews World Cup medalist Kirsty Hegarty

Kirsty with her dad, who she acknowledges as one of her greatest supporters

Anita North interviews World Cup medallist and British Olympic hopeful Kirsty Hegarty.

About 10 years ago, I was at a competition at Southern Counties Shooting Ground, chatting to my friend David Beattie from Northern Ireland. David was very excited. “We’ve got a great woman shooter for Olympic Trap in Northern Ireland,” he said. “She’s going to do great things. She’s a grand lass, and you’d better look after her – be nice to her – you’ll like her!” The lady concerned was Kirsty Barr (now Kirsty Hegarty), and she is certainly doing great things.

For those that don’t know, Kirsty was the first clay shooter to secure a quota place for Great Britain in the Tokyo Olympics next year. She did this by winning Silver in the Olympic Trap competition at the ISSF World Cup in Al Ain, UAE. Kirsty’s success story also includes Commonwealth and European medals.

Recently, I was fortunate to be able to have a good chat with Kirsty and look back at her shooting career so far.

How do you feel after your success in Al Ain – a World Cup medal and a Quota Place for Tokyo? Has it sunk in yet?

Winning the medal feels brilliant. For so long I was close, and this medal shows that all the hard work I’ve been putting in is starting to pay off. As for the Quota place – well, the real work has just started.

You’ve had a pretty good 12 months when you think about it.

From the start of 2018, things have been an improvement; shooting well in Qatar, and then Silver in the Commonwealth Games to the Silver in the European Championships, and Bronze in the Mixed Pairs event at the World Championships.

How did you get into shooting?

My mum and dad both shoot, and I grew up with them both being competitive. My brother was also quite good at it. I was determined not to try it, but then I was finally persuaded to try it while Mum and Dad were at Mid Wales Shooting Ground.

It was such a good experience, as I was treated really well by other people. This was in 2005 – once I tried DTL, I was hooked, as much by the way I was made to feel as the number of clays I broke.

I shot DTL for two years, and then spent a year shooting ABT, as well as DTL. DTL and ABT gave me lots of lessons about winning as well as shooting clays.

Tell us about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do outside of shooting?

I live in Belfast with my husband, Stephen, and our fur babies, Jasper and Juno. Away from shooting, I do lots of things that help me relax – walking the dogs, watching TV, going to the cinema, gardening, reading and crocheting. 

I am currently on a one-year official career break from Bombardier. This is a scheme that the company have that allows you to have a break for between six months and two years. At the end of it they will find a position within the company, if available. 

I wanted to make the most of the funding I was offered from UK Sport through British Shooting, and the career break has allowed me to do that. I have been able to train more and attend more overseas competitions. 

Why shoot Olympic Trap? 

After shooting DTL and ABT, I wanted to represent Northern Ireland at the highest possible level, and that meant a move to Olympic Trap. It was also the discipline that made me feel happiest – I loved the challenge and the buzz that it gave me.

Olympic Trap is an unforgiving discipline that rewards razor-sharp mental focus

What kit do you use?

I use a Caesar Guerini Invictus 5, and I have just started using Clever ammunition.

What to you are the highlights of your shooting career? 

I would say my top five competitions would be: winning silver at the 2018 Commonwealth games; getting silver and an Olympic Quota place at the 2019 Al Ain World Cup; gaining bronze in the mixed team event with Aaron Heading at the 2018 World Championships, and winning a World Cup medal in Acapulco with Matt Coward-Holley.

Last but not least, winning the Ladies event and coming 2nd overall at the 2011 British Grand Prix. It was my first major win, and one I definitely won’t forget.

What is the most memorable moment in your career so far?

My win at the Commonwealth Federation Championships in Delhi in 2010. Standing on the podium as the Northern Ireland national anthem was played was brilliant. I hadn’t been shooting Olympic Trap for very long, and that memory will stick with me.

Do you have any sponsors?

I am sponsored by Caesar Guerini UK and Clever Ammunition. I also receive support from UK Sport thanks to lottery funding and GLL Sports Foundation.

What has it taken to get to this stage in your shooting? 

It has taken an unbelievable amount of hard work! There are days when you would rather do something else; when it’s horrible weather or you might not feel great.

The dedication has to be mixed with enjoyment. In addition, as a woman in shooting sports you have to be mentally strong, because when things are going wrong everyone wants to give you advice, and unfortunately not all of it is right for you. People are only trying to help, and you have to be able to say, “Thanks very much”.

I train 2-3 days per week – a little less over winter. I am lucky to have three shooting grounds within an hour’s drive of home: Thatch Clay Target Club, Logue’s Hill and Tannyoky. I’m not a big quantity trainer; quality is what works for me. Everyone has to find what works for them. 

I also train three days a week in the gym for cardiovascular fitness and core strength. Exercise is good for your mental wellbeing, and that helps your shooting.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Believing in myself, that I can do it. It’s about not second-guessing everything. If you have self-belief, you can just get on with shooting automatically.

Olympic Trap is an unforgiving discipline that rewards razor-sharp mental focus

Who have been your biggest supporters?

The support I’ve had from shooters in Northern Ireland has always been great, but without a doubt my greatest supporters are my mum, dad and husband.

They keep me on the straight and narrow and encourage me on the bad days. It’s brilliant, because my mum and dad both shoot, so they understand the competitive side of shooting. In contrast, my husband, Stephen, is not into shooting, so we have lots of other things to talk about when I get home. This all means I have this great balance of people around me.

What’s your advice to new shooters?

There aren’t that many sports where you are able to compete against everyone – men, women, juniors. You can find out just what you are capable of. Don’t stick to one discipline; try lots and find which ones make you happiest. 

What would you say to any readers who might not have tried Olympic Trap?

It’s a hard discipline. Everyone can have a bad day – it’s how you recover that shows how much you want it. It’s about keeping to your technique and working on it.

What are you favourite grounds in the British Isles and Overseas?

I love Glenmoriston – it’s a fabulously friendly ground in such a fabulous part of the country, not far from Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. Abroad, it has to be Lonato (Trap Concaverde) – it’s such an amazing ground. The grandeur really gets to you, and competitions run so smoothly.

What are your plans for the rest of the 2019 season?

I’m preparing for the European Games and World Championships. I am also working on selection for the European Championships. 

I wish Kirsty the very best for the rest of 2019 and her campaign to secure her spot in Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics. Until next month. Hope you’re enjoying your training – embrace the hard work and don’t forget to get behind our team’s quest for medals, championships titles and quota places! Go GB! 

Follow Kirsty on Twitter @kirstybarr88 and Instagram at kb.barr88

Full results for the World Cups can be found on the ISSF website. Follow them on Facebook to see some finals streamed live.

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