London 2012 left a legacy which has reverberated through Sport England over the last four years.
A nationwide initiative to get more young people into the sport of Clay Pigeon Shooting has been steadily pushing numbers up and is how I began my shooting career. For what is often mislabelled a stuck up sport, my first experience of clay shooting certainly wasn’t glamourous. I began much as I went on for the next few years: in muddy wellies and as many layers as I could fit under my coat. I’m sure most people reading this expect this quintessentially countryside view of shooting, and at the risk of reinforcing the stereotype it is often true, however as a country, we are also very good on the world stage, and have structures in place to support the next generation of upcoming competitors.
Few people reading this will know the name George Digweed, despite the fact he is the first ever sportsman to win a world title in four different decades. He has won a staggering 26 World Championships, 18 European Championships, 116 International Championships, 16 World Cups, 10 European Cups and 11 English and British Championships. Similarly, most will not know Amber Hill, one of GB’s youngest competitors at Rio, Skeet finalist, and 2013 Young Sports Personality of the Year. The list of highly decorated British shooters is huge, yet very few people come into the sport without a farming background, or family to involve them first- this small pool of possible recruits however is widening as publicity for the sport increases. The necessity to keep the sport full of fresh faces is evident by the success of recent juniors, and the ease to now get involved has helped dramatically. From young shot days, to talent identification, British Shooting and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association have made breaking into shooting easier than ever.
Shooting has many disciplines within it, however only three of these are contested at the Olympic and Commonwealth games: Olympic Skeet, Olympic Trap and Double Trap. Over the last two years I have specialised in Olympic Trap, and have been fortunate to have been fast tracked to the top level of the governing body’s national support structure: The GB Talent Pathway. Due to this I have been able to see the mechanisms the sport runs on and have gained an insight into how intricate the system is. And it clearly works. With two medals at Rio, and a gold in Double Trap in 2012, Sport England’s support is allowing those at the top in shooting to continue with their success. Even at national level this year I have been fortunate to have the support of nutritionists to psychologists through British Shooting’s extensive programme. Very few sports will cater for their junior teams the way shooting does and as in sport success breeds funding,: in my opinion there is no better game to be involved in at the moment.
Despite the dazzling success of many of the UK’s top competitors, shooting currently remains largely out of the limelight, however with the last two Olympic BBC broadcasts giving shooting main channel screen time, there is movement in the right direction- shooting has a lot to offer: watch this space.
Orgininal Image by Heather Dunmall