Reporting on the winners of competitions leads you to write about similar names, and over the past four years, people like Winser, Digweed and Hall regularly deserve plaudits for world championships, international achievements and Clay Shooting Classic Sporting wins. But there is one person who has featured in news beyond her activity at shooting grounds.
When Amber Hill won gold at her first ever Senior Olympic Skeet World Cup in 2013, this catapulted her into mainstream media, and she received awards from the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as winning the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. Since then she has spoken up regarding the legal age for shooting in Northern Ireland, become an ambassador for women in sport and is still maintaining her foothold on the international rankings as the fifth greatest Olympic Skeet lady in the world at the time of print.
Amber is a true ambassador for the sport and you can tell she takes the role seriously in the way she presents herself to people outside the world of shooting. She said: “I’d love to think that I inspire the younger generation, and even for girls as well – shooting isn’t always seen as the girliest sport but you can still enjoy it and do it at a high level.
“When I was young I was always involved in sport so it was my family that was encouraging me to try new things and try new sports as well. But there have also been people that I’ve looked up to at a young age. I looked up to these role models and realised I wanted to be one for younger people and girls in sport, and hopefully they can look up to me and see what they’re capable of.”
For much of the past few years, Amber has been young enough to inspire newcomers older than her. She won her first ISSF major at 15, just months after being inspired to reach the Olympics from watching the athletes at London 2012. While it takes most Olympians nearly a decade to receive an invite onto the big stage, Amber has worked hard to win a quota place and earn her place on Team GB. She said: “Everything’s happened so fast, sometimes you have to step back a minute and take in what’s happening. I know it can take more than four years to reach the Olympics but I took one step at a time and that’s what I’m continuing to do in the lead up to Rio is keep level headed and keep enjoying what I do.”
To get time away from media appearances in this high-pressure year, Amber enjoys doing the basic things like spending time with her boyfriend, friends and family. She has also tried her hand at golf though admits that her swing “still needs improvement, but we’re working on it.”
Her focus, however, remains firmly on smashing clays. At the first ISSF World Cup of this year, Amber barely missed the top six with a score of 69ex-75, but her performance at the World Cup in Rio, which acted as a test event for the Olympic Games in August, didn’t go according to plan. Yet Amber is not concerned: “It was really exciting to head out to Rio a few weeks ago to see where I’m going to be shooting in a few month’s time. I wanted to take as much as I can away from it as well and learned about the lifestyle, and things that you need to take into consideration. I didn’t exactly perform quite as well as what I was hoping – I think something wasn’t quite right when I got out there in my training. But I try to think positively about it, I didn’t want to peak at that point and I’ve still got a few months to work with my coaches – since I’ve come back I’m on good form again. I think it was a little blip, but I’m going to put everything I learnt into my performance in August.
“We have had a lot of support from British Shooting and the BOA to prepare us for things that happen outside of shooting, for example the food hall can be overwhelming, as can all the media, but at the end of the day you need to try and stick to your normal routine and take everything in your stride – I’m still taking 75 shots as I’ve done hundreds of times before.”
Amber has been shooting since the age of 10, when she visited some local Sporting shoots with her grandfather.
She said: “I was only this little diddy thing but it was a great way to spend time with my granddad, he loved it and it soon turned into a passion of mine. He started on Sporting so I joined him to start out, but as I grew and developed he introduced me to FITASC, DTL, Skeet and we were trying all the disciplines to see what my area was. I like Skeet because I think it’s so challenging. You’ve got to have your gun down, there’s up to three-second delays on the targets, but you can also compete in the Olympics, which was a massive thing for me.”
The young star’s dream of appearing at the Olympics has been achieved early in her career, but it doesn’t stop there. Amber has a real chance to finish on the podium in Rio. Reaching the top five in the world rankings is no easy task, and her success on the day will come down to working out any kinks in the next few months, retaining focus in Brazil, battling the motivation of her rivals, and a little bit of luck.
She stands a chance of success in Rio, but Amber offers more than that. There is a glimmer of hope for the long-term medal-winning potential. Only one shooter in the world rankings has a more recent year of birth than 1997, which is when Amber was born, so it’s a safe bet that we will be seeing her in many more Olympic Games to come. “I’m not sure where I’ll be in a few years time, but after this Olympics, I’ll definitely be going for gold in another Olympic cycle. I’m not sure where I’ll be at that time. I’ll be 22 after the next Olympics so I’ll still be young.
“I might want to do things in a different area, doing more media or something in fashion, which I’m passionate about. I can’t really say, but as long as I enjoy my shooting I’m going to keep going.”
If Amber gets any enjoyment from winning medals at the rate she already has, we can expect to see her shooting for quite some time yet.