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Big hand for Olympic shooters

Hopeful Olympic shooters could be eligible for a big helping hand from UK Sport that they hadn’t even considered.

By Peter Wilson

The World Class Programme (WCP) is one of the best-kept secrets of shooting. There seems to be reluctance on behalf of UK Sport and British Shooting, the governing body that it funds via the national lottery, to advertise the help that is available to eligible athletes, despite the fact that cost must be one of the main causes in deterring talented young shooters taking up an Olympic discipline. Their websites seem to be stuck in a time warp that ended in London 2012.  However great that event was, it is time to move on and spread the good news of the assistance available for the next Olympic term – and it is considerable.

When I first joined the programme, funding – or the loss of it – was used as a threat to keep us all in line, this created an air of instability and discouraged innovation. Consequently, when I began experimenting with high ribs manufactured by the miracle worker Bob Ladbroke, of Ladbroke and Langton Gunsmiths, it had to be done covertly. Incidentally, losing funding post-Beijing was an opportunity for me to seek out UAE shooter Ahmed Al Maktoum and absorb all his revolutionary ideas.

However, British Shooting under its present management is a totally different and more enlightened animal (of particular mention is Performance Director Kier Worth, who is following the good work begun by his predecessor Tim Newenham). The GB Academy Programme, under Steven Seligmann, is evidence of the new approach and recognition of the need to encourage young talented shooters into the Olympic shooting sports. Future gold medalists will be helped and guided through the system to the point where they are free to concentrate only on shooting, receiving a tax-free allowance (graded up from a minimum award of £6,000 per annum based on their level of achievement) and ALL their shooting expenses. Never forget that British Shooting and UK Sport have only one goal and that is the Olympics. Below that, the only competitions recognised are those run by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF).

Qualify to cut costs

In practical terms, the first step to becoming a funded double trap shooter is to qualify to shoot in ISSF competitions. You need to attend the six Great Britain selection shoots, which are spread throughout the year. Your best five scores will count, and provided you finish inside the top six and have achieved the minimum qualifying score then you are eligible to represent your country. You will also be guaranteed an entry in the team for an ISSF World Cup. Get into a Final and you are eligible for consideration by the British Shooting Performance Group for selection for the WCP. Juniors are assessed on performances in the Junior European Championships and World Championships.

The WCP really is a good news story and without the help of UK Sport none of us could have shown that Brits can compete and win on the world stage.

All any of the Olympic shooters want is to promote the sport and see more youngsters coming through to take advantage of all that British Shooting make available. Most of us on the programme are in our late twenties, so new blood is needed urgently. Matt Coward-Holley proved conclusively at the first Beverley selection shoot that there is a crossover from other trap disciplines and that with hard work and perseverance you can look to an Olympic future.