The big interview: Anita North meets Matt Coward-Holley

Matt shows off his hard-earned gold medal

GB star Matt Coward-Holley is riding high on his recent successes. Anita North asks him how he does it.

It’s been a busy summer for British shooters on the international scene, especially Matthew Coward-Holley, who has been run off his feet competing and making history. Matt became the third British shooter (and only the second clay shooter) to secure a place for Great Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Matthew won a quota place when he took the silver medal at the World Cup in Changwon, Korea in May of this year. But that’s not all; not by any shot. Matt followed up on his success by becoming Britain’s first world champion in Olympic Trap.

To put that into context, records going back to 1929 tell us that only one other British shooter has medalled in Olympic Trap at the World Championships – Ed Ling won silver in 2014 and 2017.

Trust me, it takes a lot of work to marshal the supremely disciplined performance needed to medal in any Olympic Trap event, let alone win at the World Championships, which are especially daunting given that they are held at the home of Olympic Trap, Trap Concaverde (known as Lonato) in Italy.

I caught up with Matt to pose him a few questions about his recent success and his shooting career to date.

The crowd looks on as Matt makes some of the world’s toughest clays look like a breeze

How did it feel to become world champion?

To win the World Championship is the pinnacle of my career so far. It is by far the biggest competition you can shoot without heading to the Olympic Games itself.

What was going through your head during the competition and then going into the final?

I have been shooting very well all year, and I have been building with every world cup towards the World Championships. This was always the shoot that I had targeted from the beginning of the year. Going into the final I was very relaxed. Actually, whenever I make finals I try to relax and enjoy them.

That was not your only success this year. You won a quota in May when you won World Cup silver in Changwon, Korea. How did that medal feel?

Winning the quota in Korea was again the culmination of a lot of hard work at previous competitions. In the World Championships in Korea last year, shooting 121 and finishing just outside the final was a massive achievement for me. It definitely gave me a confidence boost moving into the 2019 season.

At the World Cup in Mexico I shot 123 and made the shoot-off, but unfortunately missed out on the final. However, I did medal in the mixed pairs with Kirsty [Hegarty, née Barr]. Then at the World Cup in Al Ain, I shot 122 and again made a shoot-off for the final, but missed out on the final.

Then to shoot 124 in Korea was a massive step, and to go into the final in first place with no shoot-off was amazing.

At what point did you realise you had won a quota place?

When I’m in finals, I tend to know exactly where myself and the majority of other shooters stand, so I knew exactly the point I won the quota in the final.

What does shooting mean to you?

Shooting is my job as well as my life, so it means everything to me. I have invested a lot into this sport.

Who has been your biggest support?

My biggest support has to be my mum and dad, and my girlfriend, Augusta. They all put up with me being away so much.

How and why did you get into shooting? 

I took up shooting at the age of about eight years old, just shooting Sporting with my father.

How has your competing career progressed since?

I stopped shooting at the age of around 11/12 to take up rugby, which I played for several years to a fairly high level, but I had a very serious accident while playing and broke my back. That put everything on hold for a while.

At around the age of 16 I started shooting again, and I wanted to take it more seriously, so I decided to start shooting Down the Line. I shot DTL for three or four years as a Junior, and within that time I was very successful.

I then moved to Double Trap, which I shot for GB until it was removed from the Olympic Games programme. I am shooting Olympic Trap now.

When did you first compete for Great Britain?

I first competed for Great Britain in Double Trap in 2014. Then in 2017 I qualified for my first competition in Olympic Trap at the World Cup in Larnaca in May 2017.

Do you have any particularly memorable moments from your shooting career to date?

My most memorable competition, apart from this World Championships, has to be a very small DTL shoot at my local ground, Mayland & District Gun Club. It was the 100-target registered competition where I shot my first ever perfect score of 100/300 in DTL.

What kit do you use? 

I use a Perazzi MX2000/8 fitted with Gemini chokes with Clever Pro Extra ammunition, a Castellani Rio vest and Pilla glasses. 

Do you have any Sponsors?

I am fortunate to be sponsored by some great companies: Perazzi, Clever Cartridges, Gemini Chokes and Fairfax & Favor.

Who is your coach, and where do you train? 

I am coached by Diego Gasperini from Italy, so spend time out there with him. If I am in the UK, I train mostly at the National Clay Shooting Centre at Bisley.

Do you have a favourite ground in the UK and abroad?

My favourite ground in the UK is Fauxdegla Shooting Ground, and outside the UK it has to be Lonato.

What advice would you give to any new shooters out there?

The only advice I can give is you have to really enjoy what you do. If you enjoy it then it makes the work that comes with it easier.

Do you get chance to spend much time at home?

Like any sport at a high level, you have to dedicate a lot of time to it, so I don’t get to spend that much time at home, but unfortunately it comes with the territory. However, the unceasing support of my parents and my girlfriend, Augusta, makes being away from home that much easier.

Knowing that they are there for me at the end of the phone when I need to speak to any of them is something I really treasure. I have to add that the time I do get to spend with them when I’m home is that much more valuable as a result.

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

I won’t be sent to any more world cups or the European championships, as I already have a quota place and there are still quotas to be won at those events, so my plan for the rest of the season is going to be to attend a lot of grand prix events and do lots of training. 

I wish Matt the best for the rest of 2019, and for his campaign to secure his spot in Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics. Here’s to more great shooting for GB!

Until next month. I hope you’re enjoying your training and development – embrace the hard work and don’t forget to get behind our teams as they continue on the quest for medals, championship titles and quota places. Go GB! 

Support Matt by following him on Instagram @mattcowardholley

Full results for world cups and world championships can be found at www.issf-sports.org.

Live finals are streamed at www.facebook.com/ISSF.Shooting 

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