He is a three-time Olympian, but possibly the quietest member of the five Brits travelling to Rio this summer. Ed Ling has been a star in the making since he first tried shooting his dad’s Browning B2G in the back yard of their farm at the age of 12, but his ego is non-existent. He has won at almost every Trap discipline in the world, but has never been on the podium at an Olympic level. However, don’t assume that his quiet nature is the reason he hasn’t won a medal at the biggest international sporting event in the world, instead the introspective personality is what helps drive Ed’s competitive fire – and it’s why you shouldn’t count him out in Brazil: “Most people there are top-end shooters, which means that pretty much any one of them could win, including myself.”
Back in 2004, Ed was undoubtedly a great shooter, and he was selected for his first Olympic campaign at the age of 21 to shoot Olympic Trap in Athens.
He had already won several medals on the international stage as a Junior, and won bronze at a World Cup in Lonato in 2003 as a Senior. Since then Ed has spent time honing his international craft by breaking world records and winning world championships in Universal Trench, as well as dominating the domestic Automatic Ball Trap scene. It is breaking clays at every level that has built up his love of shooting, and a big reason why you won’t see him training on just Olympic Trap-level targets. He said: “My enjoyment comes from shooting clays. For me I believe breaking them comes down to handling the gun, and developing good gun control, and working on my hand-eye coordination. When I pull the trigger, whether it is ABT, UT or OT, shooting a competition has a bit more of an edge than just shooting practice rounds of Olympic Trap, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
Today, Ed is married, works hard on the farm, and still enjoys success at the highest level. In 2014, he won silver at the World Championship in Granada, which secured Britain’s first quota place for Rio, but he has been taking the build-up to the Olympics in his stride: “Every Olympics is a new experience, partly because it’s a different location each time. But I will try to treat it like any other competition and not highlight that it is the Olympic Games because straight away you’re adding pressure to yourself, so I’ll take it a little bit at a time and take the pressure as it comes. When I’m there I’ll make sure I rely on my routine and my experience of previous experiences so when it comes around I view it as not the Olympic Games but just another competition and hopefully on the day it will all come together.”
As the only Olympic Trap shooter from Britain in Rio this year, Ed knows there is a lot of pressure on him, but his performance at the latest ISSF World Cup, considered the test event for the Olympics, showed that he is capable of living up to it. In scorching heat, the farmer from Somerset shot 117ex-125 and came through a nine-man, 12-target sudden-death shoot-off just to make it into the top semi-final. Ed said: “I’ve never shot in heat like it, the humidity was draining and dripping off me. I knew it was going to be tough to get through a nine-way shoot-off so I figured if I just kept on plugging away I’d come through it. That was one of my main goals is getting through to the final.
“From there, I don’t believe you can control what others are doing. If everything goes right and you’re on a good squad with people next to you who aren’t too distracting, hopefully it’ll be OK. In shooting I don’t think you’d be able to pick someone straight off and say that that person is going to win. In running you can look at Usain Bolt and say he will win unless he trips over, but it’s a bit more difficult in shooting – what will make a difference is if I am able to enjoy it. My scores show when I’ve been enjoying myself: my confidence is higher and I’m able to hit good scores.”
Confident in his own performance, Ed Ling will take it in his stride if he walks away from the Olympic Games clutching a gold medal. He is calm, respectful and generally wants to avoid pomp and flair – the British medal hope will probably miss the opening ceremony and not stick around for the closing party either. “I’ll probably just use the athlete’s village to get rest and relax. I don’t get star struck so much, I’m just there to do my job. I’m flying home as soon as the competition is finished because I’m not really one for staying away too long, I’ve got the farm back home that I need to muck in with. It’s not me to stay out there doing nothing, I want to be doing something, so I’ll get back to work and help finish with the harvest. It’s all about the competition. I’m getting a bit more used to media and everything that goes with going to the Olympics, but everyone knows I’m not a fan of doing TV or other bits and bobs, I just like to get out and do what I do.”
And with that, Ed kindly asked if he could put the phone down as a delivery was arriving on the farm and he wanted to help the rest of the team.
He is one of the most humble British athletes to have appeared in the Olympics, but it takes a special talent to get there three times. He might not talk big about his dreams or prospects, but underneath the genuine, hard-working countryman’s image is a crack shot who knows how to perform, and he loves to perform in the big moments.
When it’s game time, the quiet Ed Ling might just surprise the world and finish his time in Rio on the step of a podium.