Team GB’s Pete Wilson started shooting at the age of eight with his father, Charles. Serving his apprenticeship with an air rifle, he never shot unsupervised and the only quarry in his sights were tin cans. His father was determined that he would comprehend every aspect of shooting before he was allowed to progress past punching holes in metal.
“I had to learn about safety before I was able to shoot live quarry. I did a lot of beating and this gave me an understanding of how many people are involved during a shoot day.”
When he did get hold of a shotgun he had to carry it empty for an entire year. Walking around the farm with his father, he would be told what was and wasn’t a safe shot and occasionally would be allowed to mount the gun. By the age of 11 he had a 20 bore and was finally allowed to shoot, but still under parental guidance.
“When I look back, Dad invested a lot of time in my shooting. I would walk around the farm almost every day and he would always be there with me, supervising every shot.”
Catching the clay bug
Twelve months later he shot his first clay pigeons, winning a GWCT Young Shots event.
“It made me realise how much I loved it. I had the bug and got some coaching from Brian Summerhayes at Southern Counties Shooting Ground.”
Pete Wilson became a fan of the English Sporting discipline and at 14 he started as a boarder at Millfield School in Somerset, which limited his time on the trigger. Fortunately the school has its own shooting team so each week he went to Cheddar SG to shoot sporting and skeet. After spending five years at Millfield shooting under Don Banks, he started competing in CPSA registered sporting events.
“I really enjoyed it but I had watched Richard Faulds win Olympic gold in double trap (DT) and it changed my view because Sporting is not an Olympic discipline. I had to shoot the Olympic disciplines if I was to follow my dream. I tried Olympic skeet and Olympic trap but they weren’t for me.”
That left double trap, the toughest shotgun discipline in the world.
Team GB’s Pete Wilson will be in action in the Olympic double trap on Thursday August 2.
Then came a chance encounter that would change his life forever.
“I arrived at the National Shooting Centre at Bisley and asked if I could shoot some DT. Ian Coley overheard and suggested I shoot with him and the GB squad. I shot a round with them and was totally hooked. I decided there and then that I would shoot DT and try to win Olympic gold. I went back the following day and shot a registered double trap competition.”
Pete Wilson finished sixth overall, made it to the seniors final and won the junior class.
A fight for funding
Four months later, aged 19, he won the Junior European Championships and was put on the Olympic Performance Program. He spent 2006 and 2007 shooting on the world stage and was in Beijing in 2008 to sample the Olympic atmosphere. With the team failing to win any medals, funding was cut, and without support from UK Sport it was time to contemplate his future.
Another chance encounter with 2004 double trap gold medallist Ahmed Al Maktoum got things back on track.
“He said he was retiring and I told him I could be too because without funding it would be difficult to carry on. He said he saw potential in me and that he would be interested in coaching me.”
Later that year the Wilson family flew to Dubai and the 2004 Champion agreed to coach him free of charge.
In 2009 his parents agreed to fund him for the year but further support was dependent on making it into the GB top three. He won six consecutive team selection shoots and took the top spot in the rankings, qualifying for the European Championships, which was enough to get his funding restored.
“In 2010 I was competing at the World Cup in Dorset. I shot a personal best score of 143×150, which made the top six, but I didn’t shoot to my best ability in the final. I had used up everything I had in the tank to get there.”
At the Europeans his skeet vest fell apart and the butt plate fell off the stock on his first round (42×50). He managed to fix that and shot 49 and 49 in his last two rounds, which took him from last place to second going into the final.
“Those last two rounds were the best I have ever shot – I rate them even better than the world record score because it was in simply dreadful conditions and to win silver in those circumstances was amazing.
“I finished 2011 knowing I was on track, and so far this year I have trained harder than ever, having shot more than 15,000 shells already. I spent a month in Dubai, flew to Qatar, trained with Team GB, came home for a week and flew to Tucson for the first World Cup.”
It was there that he wrote his name into the history books, qualifying with a near faultless performance. He then shot 50 straight in the final to shoot a new world record of 198×200.
“It felt incredible. I knew if I shot 50 out of 50 I couldn’t be beaten and that was what I did. World record scores are special but they don’t really matter, it’s winning the event that matters, whether that’s a 178 or a 198.”
Hungry for gold with Team GB at London 2012
Despite his childhood love of game shooting, it’s a passion that must remain on the back burner.
“I really enjoy it but it’s a distraction I can’t afford.”
Such dedication comes at a price – just short of £250,000 over the last six years, in fact.
“People often ask me how to get their kids into serious competition and I say that you have to give your entire life to it; you have to be able to put your entire life on hold and exist purely to break targets and it can be tough. You have to learn to miss first before you learn to hit; if you’re not the type who enjoys missing and learning from that miss then DT isn’t for you.”
Just in case there is any doubt about Pete Wilson’s ambition and determination, he is happy to make it clear.
“I have been put on this planet solely to shoot and win at the Olympics. The only thing that matters to me is winning gold. It all comes down to just one day.”