Television presenter and model Melanie Sykes talks MotoGP, clay shooting and Gino D'Acampo.
So, Melanie Sykes, you’re a TV presenter who has just become the new face of BT’s MotoGP programme, you must be chuffed to bits?
Melanie Sykes: “I really couldn’t be happier; a sport that excites me and working with people like Neil Hodgson and James Toseland. What’s not to like, eh?”
High-octane! Is that what appeals about shooting?
“No, not quite. I’m competitive, but when I shoot, I can just zone-out, so it’s more relaxing and therapeutic than anything else… that’s what’s really, really valuable to me.”
How did shooting start for you?
“My father-in-law introduced me to it all and I’d always really wanted to do it. He took me up to the Southern Counties shooting grounds in Dorset. I had a lesson and was hooked immediately. I just knew I was going to like it.”
Have you got good hand-to-eye co-ordination?
“I was always good at darts and snooker. I figured it was pretty much the same principle. I took to shooting for many reasons and levels… physically, mentally, everything. I love it.”
Which discipline did you start with?
“Starting off, I was just learning to do all sorts of clays. When I was thinking of concentrating on particular targets for competing, I was with Peter Wilson and he thought I might be good at the Olympic trap and that’s what I’ve started to do, quite seriously too.”
Oh, you mean actually competing?
“That’s the plan and who knows where it’ll go. I’m still in training but I’m nearly there. Funnily enough, I recently shot at the Nuthampstead Shooting Ground with Martin Barker and he said I am getting closer to competing.”
You’ve had to buy a trap specialist’s gun?
“I’ve got a Zoli Z Sport Trap gun, it’s a beautiful thing too. I shoot with a Zoli every time now but in the past every time I shot, I used a different gun. I’m left-handed and I’d shoot with right-handed guns all the time. I got my Zoli and obviously it’s been well fitted to me; now I’m shooting so much more with it. It fits like a glove.”
It’s all rather techy isn’t it, double trap and serious clay busting; the shopping must be endless?
“No, not really. I’ve worked out what I need and it isn’t very much, it’s very me all over, I’m pretty low maintenance… no, really. I’ve an exquisite gun, perfect for the discipline, a cap; I’ve got my ear-defenders. I’ve tried gloves, but I’m not great with them. I’ve got a shooting vest. As long as I’m warm, I don’t really care what I’m wearing.”
How is it received by people you work alongside?
“Shooting, it’s a hobby I’ve got a passion for and I want to compete in because I think I’ve got what it takes. People I shoot with are always pleasantly surprised by the fact I can actually do it at a reasonable level. I’m a really good student.”
How much will you have to scale up the training to get up to competition level?
“I actually don’t know the answer to that question. You can shoot loads and not hit much, whereas other days pretty much hit everything. I’ve definitely turned a corner. I go twice a week normally but I haven’t been for a couple of months because of being away. Martin Barker very much guides me on that. He doesn’t feel the need to up it to more than that at this point.”
Have you ever tried game shooting?
“I have no desire to kill anything, I really don’t. I have been asked a million times, I just don’t fancy it. If I fancied it, I would, but I don’t. It’s not because of any huge political or politically correct views or because of what I do for a living. It’s purely on a personal level. I can’t see that I will get any more enjoyment out of killing stuff than I do out of hitting clays, so there’s no point.”
Have you got any other celebrities along?
“Gino D’Acampo, the Italian chef. I challenged him to a competition. Luckily, I beat him. It was a nightmare, as he was an absolute natural. I was under so much pressure because I’d challenged him. I did win in the end. It’s funny, whenever I talk to the girls about it… my girlfriends; they all desperately want to have a go. I’ve not met anybody yet who’s done it and not enjoyed it.”
For more interviews like this one with Melanie Sykes visit our Robert Cuthbert archives.