Trained on the future

Left to right: ISSF secretary general Franz Schreiber, Amber Hill, ISSF president Olegario Vazquez Raña. (Photo: Marco Dalla Dea / ISSF)

Left to right: ISSF secretary general Franz Schreiber, Amber Hill, ISSF president Olegario Vazquez Raña. (Photo: Marco Dalla Dea / ISSF)

As I understand it, some of the funding made available for the international disciplines as a result of Peter Wilson’s medal will be for coaching future Olympic champions.

Wilson has left us in no doubt that his success was very much based on a one-to-one relationship with his friend and coach Al Maktoum, who added techniques he had previously adopted himself to his pupil’s game.

That Wilson’s success will help future champions is all very appropriate, but the chances of them forming similar relationships to Wilson’s with Maktoum are remote, so other kinds of training regimes will have to be devised.

The methods employed by other successful shooting countries, most particularly Italy, are a constant subject of speculation, but very little reliable information is available.

Then, of course, there are the ISSF qualifications individuals can acquire, which may also be a way of producing our own cadre of qualified international coaches.

There are many different levels of coaching, from basic instruction as it relates to the complete beginner to refining the techniques of already proven experts.

Calling yourself a coach without having any qualification, which some people do, or even acquiring them, proves little. Only a properly demonstrated record of success can validate whatever gifts of teaching you may have.

Over the years I have met many people who could shoot brilliantly but could hardly put a sentence together when trying to explain how they did it.

It’s very possible they didn’t have any idea, but by employing the innate senses of distance and speed we all share, together with the uninhibited employment of their natural coordination, they enjoyed considerable success.

This is not very helpful when trying to formulate a training programme, but it is an unconscious expertise that our young athletes will have to acquire with a foundation based on some kind of orthodoxy.

I can already envisage the eyes of hundreds of nature’s little corporals gleaming at the mention of orthodoxy, which to them means orders and authority that they could be a part of.

Unfortunately for them, orthodoxy will be a small part of the training process.

Gold and silver medallists Vincent Hancock (USA) and Michael Gilligan (GBR)

Gold and silver medallists Vincent Hancock (USA) and Michael Gilligan (GBR)

We may start to teach children to play a piano by means of simple exercises, but if they want to be great pianists and our shooters want to be Olympic champions, they have to stop thinking and start feeling, and become intuitive.

Only then will their latent talent take wing. Does anybody know any flying instructors? Because that’s what we really need.

In the aftermath of the Peter Wilson medal, some more taxpayers’ money is being made available to train Olympic shooters, but inevitably those charged with its imbursement want to be able to see some kind of cohesive planning on the part of those who administer shooting as to how they will use it.

What they have in mind is something along the lines other Olympic sports have adopted. This would comprise a squad of six people who, based on recent performance, represent the most competitive.

This group, who would receive coaching and the funds required to adapt to a semi-professional lifestyle, would have an opportunity to represent Great Britain to win the quota places necessary to compete in the Rio Olympics.

We must assume, of course, that if there are squad members who simply don’t perform, they will be replaced with those of suitable ranking below them, or by others who have subsequently appeared on the scene with some outstanding talent.

What we will not see is people walking into the British team on the basis of a couple of good scores.

I can’t recall that ever happening in the past, but regardless of that, an established group backed by an organised training regime is, in today’s climate, the only way we can hope to receive the funds that are on offer.

The administrators of other Olympic sports accept these conditions, so what’s different about shooting? The answer is nothing.

We must understand the money is distributed not to grow the sport of shooting, but to win Olympic medals – that’s the government’s only motive.

Like it or not, Olympic shooting is now a professional game that requires a similar environment in which able participants can prosper, so let’s get on with it.

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Grand Prix, Cyprus

In games that require the utmost concentration complemented by a relaxed and supple body, it does not help to have rain in your face and to be shivering with cold.

It’s not only the British who have come to this conclusion – shooters from Eastern Europe, Germany and Scandinavia have sought out boltholes in the Mediterranean or Middle East to practice during the winter.

For that reason, the Cyprus Grand Prix in February, which provides a competition for all the Olympic disciplines, has become a major fixture in the international shooting calendar.

Not because it has the status of an ISSF World Cup, but it is the opportunity to shoot in a warm February sun that attracts many top performers from around the world.

The field included two British shooters who made the most of their moment in the sun.

Courageous Caroline Povey kept her cool in the Women’s Trap

Courageous Caroline Povey kept her
cool in the Women’s Trap

Women’s Trap

The Cyprus Grand Prix began on 25 February with the Ladies’ Trap event, and straight away GB was in the medals.

Caroline Povey née Neville, daughter of Joe, was placed sixth in the Ladies final with 63 ex75, seven targets behind the leaders.

In the past she would have had little chance of a medal.

This is 2013, however, and with the new rules as they relate to finalists, anything can and, it would seem, does happen.

Once you’ve made the six-competitor final, the score that got you there is disregarded, and you start again even-stevens with the other finalists.

In the semi-final for the medal matches, Stefecekova of Slovakia shot 13 ex16 while Povey, along with the two Russians Barsuk and Pshenichniko, shot 12.

This resulted in a sudden-death shoot-off to decide who would join the Slovak to shoot for gold, which Barsuk won.

While Stefecekova progressed to the winners’ podium to claim gold, Povey upped her game defeating Pshenichniko by three targets to take the bronze medal.

Povey was always a tough competitor, and it would seem the snakes-and-ladders game Olympic Trap now represents suits her courage and cool head.

Men’s Double Trap

While we don’t have many Double Trap shooters, Coley’s squad punches well above its weight with a seeming ability to win medals on a regular basis. This includes Steve Scott, who began competing in 2003.

What is it about this 28-year-old and Cyprus? A Junior World Championship in 2003, a European Championship as a senior in 2008, and two bronze medals in the same event in 2004 and 2007 and now the Country’s Grand Prix.

At the end of the qualifying rounds Scott was on 135 ex150, two targets clear of Maksim Lasarev and Vitaly Fokeev of Russia.

Scott never faltered for a moment in the two single-barrel matches, maintaining his lead over Lasarev by one target in the semi-final and increasing it to two in the final match to take the gold medal.

Great stuff from Scotty, a quiet spoken young man who lives in Fulham but thrives in the sunshine.

World Cup, Acapulco

Amber Hill, 15-year-old Skeet phenomenon, wins in Acapulco

Amber Hill, 15-year-old Skeet phenomenon,
wins in Acapulco

The first World Cup shoot of 2013 in Acapulco saw more success for British Skeet shooters.

With only one previous appearance in an international event last year, 15-year-old Skeet phenomenon Amber Hill won the gold medal in the women’s event. Going into the final she found herself competing with, among others, the gold medallist from the Beijing Games, Chiaro Cainero.

After the qualifying rounds, in equal first position were Jaiden Grinnell (USA) and Landish Kvartalova of Russia with 72,  followed by Diana Bacosi from Italy (69), Hill and Minji Kim of Korea tied on 68, and Cainero of Italy with 67.

In the semi-final of the medal matches Bacosi shot 15 ex16, as did Hill to shoot off for gold and silver. Cainero on 14 and Minji Kim on 13 shot for bronze. Another 15 from Hill clinched the gold medal. Cainero, with 141, took the bronze.

Amber Hill, still at school, trains twice a week and is coached by Joe Neville. Sponsored by Guerini, there can be no doubt this youngster represents a bright hope for British shooting in the future.

Men’s Skeet

Finding himself in similar illustrious company in the form of two-time Olympic gold medallist Vincent Hancock, GB’s Michael Gilligan, 24 years old with a Junior European Championship bronze and a silver in a World Cup last year, kept his head.

In great form, Hancock entered the final on 123 tied with Italy’s Giancarlo Tazza, while Tazza’s teammate Luigi Lodde was on 120. Gilligan tied with Saif Bin Futtais (UAE), and John McGrath USA was on 119.

We must remember that these scores count for nothing – if you make the final you are all square again.

Hancock wasn’t letting go, however, and shot 16 straight. Gilligan only missed one for 15, tying with Bin Futtais and McGrath, and won the shoot-off to join Hancock and shoot for gold and silver.

Hancock maintained his dominance, missing only one target to take gold. Gilligan dropped two for silver, but a fine effort nonetheless. Futtais took the bronze.

Vic Harker

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