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The British Olympic Association (BOA) last week announced the world class athletes selected for the GB Shooting Team for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. It will be the first time that the Olympic Games will be held in The People’s Republic of China, coinciding with a period of vast economic growth in Asia. Team GB is expected to consist of 300 or so athletes and a further 200 officials, competing in up to 21 sports. The British Olympic Association (BOA) is the National Olympic Committee for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Its role is to prepare our nation’s finest athletes and lead them at the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games.

The opening ceremony takes place on 8 August to celebrate the start of 16 days of 10,500 elite athletes from around the world competing for 302 gold medals. John Leighton-Dyson, Team GB Shooting Team leader for the Beijing 2008 Olympics, said, “I am delighted to be able to announce these athletes, including four new Olympians, all of whom have qualified against the best in the world. We have high hopes of good results in Beijing. Richard Faulds has been shooting exceptionally well and he is an excellent medal prospect going in to his fourth Olympics.”

As the GB Shooting Team makes its last-minute preparations before travelling to Beijing, ST meets the team members to gain an insight into the hard workand commitment each of them has put in to qualifying for the Olympics.

Steve Scott

Steve is quick to point out that, for an event such as the Olympics, mental preparation is just as important as the practical side. “It is important to be nice and solid, and my coach puts me through high-pressure training; he has even thrown stones at me, trying to put me off.” Steve, aged 23, trains mainly at Southern Counties shooting ground and at Bisley. In the early days, George Digweed took Steve under his wing and was incredibly helpful and supportive. Camaraderie in the 2008 team is high and Steve now looks to his team mate Richard Faulds for guidance, after he won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Steve recognises Richard as his main competitor in the double trap and is hoping Team GB will produce some medals, as they are all shooting well at the moment. “Richard is on fine form and my shooting is awesome now I have ironed out a few little creases — I am back on track and intend to give him a run for his money,” said Steve. Like Richard, Steve enjoys shooting game too but his priority for now is the Olympics. Of winning a gold medal in Beijing andhopefully in London in 2012, he describes it as “the 100 per cent aim of my life”.

It hasn’t all been an easy ride, however, and sheer drive and determination have got Steve to this point. In 2005, by his own admittance, he was not performing well. “I was in a bad relationship so we split up, I moved home, helped my dad in the woods and got back into shooting and I managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.” Steve’s current girlfriend, Gemma, has really helped him. “Having her behind me, and the trust that comes into play, makes her worth her weight in gold. She is just as dedicated to me doing well at the Olympics as I am.”

Steve is incredibly appreciative of his sponsorship from B&Q and works six hours a week on a full-time salary. He works hard when he is there, promoting the company, chatting with the staff and public, and helping out with team briefs. Carmyke Leasing is also extremely supportive and provides him with

a Vauxhall Astra. Right now, Steve’s training routine is fairly solid and he only has three or four spare days this month, apart from planned days of rest.

When his schedule is a little less demanding, Steve enjoys all sports and especially rifle shooting. He has just done a forester’s course and loves to help out his father, Mike, who has his own business, with traditional coppicing. He also loves to go out with the head forester of the Beeches estate, Jim Ford.

Richard Faulds

Now a household name after his gold medal win in 2000, Richard Faulds is hoping to repeat his success in Beijing. He was introduced to the sport at an early age by his father, who was a keen Shot. Richard was a regular in the beating line from the age of four and graduated to shooting clays and then game from the age of nine. Originally from Sussex, he now lives in the Meon Valley in Hampshire.

Richard, aged 31, has competed in four World Cup events recently in preparation for the Olympics one was even in Beijing, in April. Of course, it was freezing cold then and the athletes are expecting temperatures of more than 100°F in August. Richard has also competed in Texas, Germany and Serbia, gaining a fourth place, two silvers and a gold.

Sponsored by Express Cartridges, High Def Spex, which provide him with shooting glasses, the National Lottery and Beretta (he shoots with a DT10), Richard says the key to success is lots of practice and hard work. He is shooting four to five days a week and not going abroad again until he goes out to Beijing on 1 August. Richard is incredibly grateful to all his sponsors and emphasised how important his partner Tania has been, standing by him and being so understanding.

Elena Little

Elena was 14 when she started shooting the trap discipline in her native Moscow, after her mother persuaded her to try the sport. Her mother, Tatiana Bogdanova, competed internationally for Russia at skeet in the 1970s, so the ability to shoot straight clearly runs in the family.

Newport-based Elena, aged 36, describes her most memorable achievement to date as setting a world record in 2005, in Belgrade. “I am ectastic and over the moon to be selected for the team and it’s great to be going to Beijing as I have been working very hard towards this goal,” she said. “My preparations have been going really well and I look forward to getting on the plane and heading off.”

Elena made her debut at the 1998 European Championships in Cyprus, and will compete at skeet in Beijing

Jon Hammond

Aberdeen-born Jon Hammond is going to have a busy time in Beijing, competing in three events: the 50m rifle prone, 50m rifle three positions and the air rifle. Jon, aged 27, is currently employed as the rifle coach at the West Virginia University in the US, and is based full time in America.

He has been competing worldwide in the run-up to the Olympics and shot a personal best in Munich on 18 May at the World Championships. Incidentally, the airline the team flew out with managed not to place a number of the team’s rifles on the correct flights to Munich and they only appeared at 2am on the day of the match. Hopefully Jon’s cool head will amount to success in Beijing.

Charlotte Kerwood

“I started shooting at 12, thanks to my mum and dad. They run a shooting club called Northall, and mum started shooting so I thought I’d have a go and loved it.” Charlotte Kerwood’s discipline is the Olympic Trap. “I really enjoyed it straight away and was doing really well from the beginning,” she said. “I think it was my dad who noticed early that I was going to be good. “The main sacrifice has been money. I get funding, which is great, but I can’t really have a job as I am away travelling a great deal of the time. However, it means a lot to represent my country. I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics and this year I am going. It is amazing to be part of Team GB.”

Charlotte travels to Italy to do most of her training. “My coach is Italian and has a beautiful range to train on. A normal day starts at 9ish, with a break for lunch then more shooting in the afternoon until around 5pm. I am normally in Italy for stretches of seven to 10 days, training every day, then I come home, where I don’t shoot as much perhaps three or four days a week. “If I won a medal, it wouldn’t change me as a person, but hopefully it would get shooting more coverage and more people into the sport,” Charlotte said.

She lives in a small village in East Sussex, where the locals are very supportive. “When I won the Commonwealth Games, in Melbourne, they were all up at our shoot to welcome me home.”

Charlotte, aged 22, has been inspired by an Australian shooter, Michael Diamond. He has won two gold medals at the Olympics, in 1996 in Atlanta and in Sydney in 2000. “He is an amazing Shot and has the world record. I would love to achieve that level of shooting. The goal that drives me forward is to win gold at the Olympics. There are five of us going to Beijing, four clay Shots and one Rifle. I know the clay guys well; Richard has been there before and is shooting well at the moment and could definitely win a medal.

For Elena, Steve and me, it’s our first Olympics, but I believe we all have a chance of winning a medal. It will also be great experience for us leading up to London 2012.

“At the moment everything is focused on my sport, so I am not sure what I want to do in the future. Maybe coaching, but that would still be in shooting.” Charlotte sees shooting as an obsession, but loves to shop, “When I am not shooting, I am shopping. My friends and family are very important to me.”

Charlotte is sponsored by Perazzi and RC Cartridges.

The rest of this article appears in 3 July issue of Shooting Times.

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