Amber Hill, the Team GB Olympic skeet shooter, on getting selected for Rio 2016, her sporting heroes and thoughts on shooting psychology.
Amber Hill was interviewed for the July 2016 issue of Shooting Gazette.
Robert Cuthbert: Congratulations on your selection for Team GB’s skeet squad in Rio. That must have been huge; can you remember where you were when you were given the good news?
Amber Hill: “It was fantastic, just amazing to hear I was actually selected. I was down at Bisham Abbey when everything was launched. We had all of the media down. It was just amazing thinking, this is real. I am actually going to the Olympics. Then, to be able to tell all my friends and family as well, it was just an amazing day.”
Robert Cuthbert: Dream come true stuff?
Amber Hill: “Definitely. I went to London 2012 to watch the shooting and it was being there which made me think, actually, I really want to go to the Olympics. It’s been my dream every since.”
Robert Cuthbert: Do you have a sporting hero?
Amber Hill: “An American lady, Kim Rhode from California. She won gold in London 2012 along with other Olympic gold medals in Athens, Beijing and Sydney. She is just a fantastic shot to watch, makes it look so easy. I’ve always thought that I would like to be as good as her. I definitely look up to her.”
Robert Cuthbert: How did the whole thing start?
Amber Hill: “I was 10 when I first started shooting. I went to watch my brother’s rugby match every week, got a bit bored with it and wanted something for myself. I was always sporty. One weekend my Granddad said he was going shooting and I just went along with him. He let me have my first shot with his 12 bore with 28gram cartridges – bearing in mind I was 10 and a tiny little thing, but from that first shot I absolutely loved it and I wanted to go each weekend with him. It was a great way to spend time together.”
Robert Cuthbert: What was your grandfather’s discipline?
Amber Hill: “Sporting, but once I’d started and he saw how much I enjoyed it, he pushed me on and told me to try all of the different disciplines, FITASC, DTL, trap and skeet, so I really did go through a little bit of everything. Skeet was always my passion. Sporting is fun, though.”
Robert Cuthbert: Why did you choose skeet in the end?
Amber Hill: “I think because there are only two Olympic disciplines. Once I saw at London 2012 that I could eventually one day go to an Olympics for shooting, it was almost like picking between whether I carry on doing what I wanted to and having loads of fun doing it, or take a gamble and see if I liked an Olympic discipline. That’s what I did. I tried it and found that I loved skeet just as much as sporting. So I decided to start training and things took off from there.”
Robert Cuthbert: If someone said ‘let’s shoot some sporting clays’ would you refuse because it could blunt what you do, or can you switch off from the focus of skeet?
Amber Hill: “During the season when I am competing and training and travelling I try not to do too much sporting. Once it gets to October time, the off-season, that is when I can go back to a bit of sporting. I really enjoy going round with my friends, family or my Granddad again.”
Robert Cuthbert: Do people try to get you to come out and shoot game?
Amber Hill: “No, to be honest. Maybe a few invites. For me, it has always been about clays. It is what I have enjoyed right from the start. It has taken me so far already, so that is what I want to continue doing.”
Robert Cuthbert: Where do you go after you win gold in Rio?
Amber Hill: “I think I am still so young at the moment it is very hard to say beyond the next couple of years. For me I compete in skeet purely because I love it. If it got to a day where I didn’t enjoy it I think that is the time where you have to re-think what you want to do. For me it’s travelling the world, competing at a high level and I think I’ll be open to so many possibilities. I love doing all the media side of things, so I could get involved with something like that or into fashion and all my girlie-side. I think there are a lot of different areas that could be opened up. At the moment, though, it is all about my shooting.”
Robert Cuthbert: You shoot a Perazzi?
Amber Hill: “Yes. I shoot a MX2000. It is the perfect gun. It was hand made for me, which is such an important thing with skeet. Beginning with your gun down, everything needs to fit perfectly. You don’t have time to adjust while you are shooting. From when the target comes out, it is just so quick that having the perfect gun is vital.”
Robert Cuthbert: So what would be your worst shot?
Amber Hill: “I try not to have one. I try not to think of it like that as every shot in skeet should be the same. When it comes to sporting, it will always be rabbits. When I was younger, I was at a shoot and I had to hit this little rabbit. It came rolling down and slowly flopped on to its side… literally fell over. I was shooting in a shoot-off to win a gun and I missed this rabbit; it was travelling at only a few miles an hour, then it stopped and then fell over, but I hit every other clay. Everything going a hundred miles an hour I hit but… oh, that rabbit.”
Robert Cuthbert: Do you employ any psychology coaching techniques to help you get into that zone?
Amber Hill: “For me, it is just keeping things as simple as possible. I haven’t actually worked with psychologists so far, it has all been self-taught. I’ve found that as long as you are positive about the situation it helps. Even on the bad days being positive can make something good happen and that’s how I work. I wouldn’t rule out using a psychologist in the future but at the moment it is about keeping things very simple.”