Heading for Tokyo

Aaron takes the podium with the other Trap Men medallists, Jiri Liptak (CZE) and Mauro de Filippis (ITA)

Aaron grabs the limelight winning a quota place, but every GB shooter deserves credit for their performance at the European Championships. Anita North reports

Another month and more competitions have been and gone! For Olympic Trap and Olympic Skeet, September brought the European Championships at Trap Concaverde (Lonato) near Lake Garda in Italy.

This was the second major championships to be held at Lonato this year – the World Championships were held at the beginning of July and there was some great British success at that competition.

Olympic Trap was up first with Olympic Skeet following, with senior and junior women and men competitions, individual, team and mixed team events. Between Trap and Skeet there was also a Double Trap Grand Prix event.

As well as championship titles and medal glory, for the senior competitors the championships meant another opportunity for quota places for the Tokyo Olympics. Let’s focus on how the British team fared.

Olympic Trap

In the senior men’s competition, Aaron Heading excelled. Having secured a place in the final with a score of 119, Aaron kept his calm and level of work to come away with a silver medal which came with the fabulous added bonus of a Tokyo quota place for Great Britain. Nathan Hales and Ed Ling were the other British shooters competing.

In the women’s events, Abbey Ling, Sarah Wixey and Charlotte Hollands were the British team competitors. In the end, Abbey Ling finished ninth, having missed the final by two targets, while Sarah Wixey was two targets behind Abbey.

Charlotte Hollands, struggling to have consistent form, finished lower down the field. The women came back fighting in the team event and their hard work earned them team bronze.

Meanwhile, in the junior women’s events, Jessica Hayward made the final in her first European Championships and finished sixth. Lucy Hall and Maddie Purser were the other two British shooters, and they finished further down the field.

Like the senior ladies, they came back fighting in the team event and finished fourth after their medal match against Italy. The medal match gave the juniors a great valuable experience of a pressurised competition, as Lonato always provides an enthusiastic audience of spectators.

In the junior men’s competition, Michael Bovingdon shot well in qualification to earn his first outing in the finals at a European Championships. Michael ended up in a very commendable fourth place.

Tom Betts and Theo Ling were the other British juniors, and they finished in tenth and twelfth places. The junior men kept up the work in the team event and came away with team silver in their medal match against a very strong Finland.

In the mixed team events, the seniors and juniors missed out on medal matches finishing lower down the field of teams. So by the end of the Olympic Trap competitions, British shooters came away with medals, some very commendable performances – and a quota place!

The GB team gathered to celebrate Aaron’s success

Olympic Skeet 

In the women’s events, Elena Allen was the Brit closest to the final – three away – finishing in 14th place. Emily Hibbs was one behind Elena to take 19th place and Amber Hill was close behind to finish 23rd.

There was just one GB junior woman in the Championships – Madeleine Boyd – who is continuing to improve her international performances and finished mid-field.

In the men’s competition, Ben Llewellin shot a solid 123 in qualification, but missed a place in the final in a shoot-off with five other competitors vying for one of three places in the final.

Jeremy Bird and Michael Gilligan were the other British men competing, and they finished close behind Ben’s score to put them in 12th and 29th place respectively. 

In the junior men’s events, David McNeill’s score of 119 in qualification meant he missed the final by one clay. Aaron Eccleston and Mitchell Brooker-Smith were further behind, finishing in 22nd and 35th place.

In the team events, the junior men got through to the bronze medal match where they faced Cyprus. The British team ended the competition in fourth place, just missing out on a medal. They can be proud of this result in a very competitive field of teams.

In the Skeet mixed team event, the last event of the championships, the British junior team of Boyd and McNeill finished in sixth place. Meanwhile the senior team of Bird and Dale put in solid scores to finish in 13th place.

The other British team of Llewellin and Hill had a strong qualification performance which put them in a shoot-off against two other teams for a place in the bronze medal match. They won the shoot-off, and were then victorious over a team from Czech Republic and went on to claim the bronze medal.

Medals and quota places

You can see the full results and reports of all medals and videos from the finals on the European Shooting Confederation Facebook page, and on their website www.esc-shooting.org.

The race to Tokyo continues to be tight, and it took a podium finish to secure six of the eight quota places available. Across the events contested, the quota places went to Great Britain, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, San Marino, Russia and Ukraine. 

In conclusion, I want to say a big well done all the British competitors. It takes a lot of focus and hard work to get to the European Championships. I know that each and every competitor gave it their all. Congratulations to those that medalled.

Under pressure: Aaron shoots in the Trap Men final

For the juniors particularly, major championships at a significant venue such as Lonato will have provided very valuable experience of pressure situations which will be of great value to their development. 

Huge congratulations go to Aaron Heading for his medal-winning, quota-winning performance at these championships. Aaron had already won a bronze at the European Games earlier this year, so it was fabulous to see him achieve another medal on the European stage.

Aaron has been a strong competitor for a number of years now and already had an array of international medals and wins to his name. It is a fitting reward for Aaron’s continued hard work and dedication that his silver medal came with a quota place for Great Britain for the Tokyo Olympic Games. I for one look forward to seeing Aaron securing his place in the Tokyo Olympics in the months to come. 

Meantime, competitions do continue over the autumn and winter, as there are still competitions on the home scene, as well as international grand prix events, plus training to be done. The road to Tokyo will continue next year. Do get supporting our British teams as they continue the quest for success

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