Training on the Fast Track programme is going well, I’ve just got home from the Disabled national Air Rifle Championships at Stoke Mandeville. This was my first Nationals, which started on Friday 18th June – Sunday 20th June 2010.
I competed in the men’s 10 meter Air Rifle SH1 Standing shoot (Standing meaning holding the Rifle with no support like able body shooter, and SH1 is my International Paralympic Committee (IPC) classification for Disabled shooting.
I set off for Stoke Mandeville stadium early Friday morning, having had a couple of days rest prior to the championships. I arrived 2 hours before I was due to do my first shoot on the Friday, so had a bit of time to recover from the drive and get some food / drink.
After having my shooting equipment checked in control I got my kit sorted and ready for the first comp. The shoot consists of 60 shots within a time limit of 1 hour 45 minutes you have 10 minutes prep time allowing you to get yourself sorted on the firing point and when the clock starts unlimited sighting shots, but all must be done within the allowed time.
My first 30 shots went very well, but I tried to change my position half way through the comp as some of my shots were starting to drift to the right, just outside the 10 ring. But this was not a wise move, and as a result the remaining 20 shots resulted in me losing more points than if I had stayed in the same place. But as I am still new to this I guess I will make some mistakes along the way, but will learn from them in the future. I was shooting in a very strong class of shooters, which included no less than Paralympians Matt Skelhon (Paralympic Gold medallist 2008 and ranked top in the World) and Nathan Milgate also ranked in the top 10 World Rankings, and both are part of the full-time Paralympic performance team.
I know Matt and Nathan quite well now, and have shot in training camps next to them in practice trials since March this year. Due to being in the same SH1 class as two of the best 10 meter shooters in the World not forgetting the rest of the 8 shooters to who all have been shooting for a number of years, I was not hoping for too much this year just experience.
On the Friday evening after the first lot of comps, a few of us including Matt went to watch the England game, which us lot in chairs could have done better with our eyes closed. So after the game went straight to bed to get a good nights sleep before the next comp on the Saturday Morning at 11am. The day started off cold and wet, but with a good breakfast I was ready for my final match. Again everything at the start went very well, I took a little longer to sight the rifle in, but got on with the match. Again about half way through I changed position slightly to try and improve my shots, but the same thing happened as on Friday, so I wished I had not changed again!!
After the 60 shots, the scores / positions were announced, and it was decided that the top 4 shooter were to go through to the Olympic Final, and my name was called out I was very surprised and happy to be in my first Olympic Final Shoot, which as you would expect contained the 2 Paralympians Matt and Nathan, and one other shooter Neil, who has been shooting for many years and had always made the final every year and placed in the top 3. In shooting the 2 comps you do before are always the qualifying rounds with the aim of getting in the Olympic Final. The Olympic Final consists of 3 minutes prep time, 5 minutes sighting time and then 10 shots on command with a time limit of 75 seconds for each shot. So the judge would start by saying “for your next competition shot Load” then count down 3,2,1 start, then you have 75 seconds to take the shot. After every shot the score is announced for each shooter this time to the decimal place for example 10.1 / 9.5 etc and 10.9 being the perfect shot. Also you only get a clap and cheer from the crowd if you hit a 10 and above nothing for less than a 10. This was my first Olympic Final, and you don’t get a lot of time to set up and sight in, and the pressure is unreal as they announce your score every time it puts you under pressure as less than a 10 is no good.
But as it was my first Olympic Final, I coped very well sitting next to a Paralympic Gold Medallist seeing what hi shot before the score was called out and knowing what I had shot. But I shot several 10.4 and lowest was a 9.2, which was good, as Matt had shot an 8.4 on one of his shots.
After the 10 shots, I had shot very well and placed 3rd behind Nathan who cam 1st and Matt who came 2nd. I was very surprised and very happy.