Even allowing for the point that the London Games had more build-up and that Changwon’s RO was useless as an announcer by comparison to London (and even allowing for ISSF’s logistics issues), I still think this new format isn’t an improvement. There’s no real sense of tension during the match until the final shot and even there – well, I’ve seen more tension in chess games (and I mean in a lot of chess games).
Worse yet, there’s no excitement watching someone from the back of the pack fight up to the front because:
(a) there’s noone at the front or the back of the pack, this ridiculous start-from-zero rule means there’s no pack at all anymore, and the eliminations kick in too early and too fast to allow a proper pack to form; and
(b) instead of watching and rooting for an underdog charging up through the pack, you’re just watching the more well-known guys fall, so it sneaks up on you, and you’re left going “Oh, so-and-so is out, who’s left – who’s that?”.
And to add to that, it devalues the medals. I watched Campriani, acknowledged as one of the best rifle shooters of the last few years and who just won the 2012 shooter of the year award, go out in the first elimination on the basis of eight shots and I’m thinking “well, that medal’s not worth much now, you survived against one of the best in the world for less than a ten-shot strong, instead of the 70+ you’d have had to have beaten him in for the Olympic Gold medal. Big woop.” I once bested Vaclav Haman (then ranked fourth in the world) for a few shots; at the time I couldn’t hit the MQS and couldn’t maintain the lead for a string, but for those few, I was all of 0.2 points ahead of one of the world’s best shooters. That’s worthy of being thought of as a nice, somewhat self-deprecatingly funny training story for a new shooter, worth a laugh at the time; under these stupid new finals rules, it would have been enough for him to be eliminated despite him being a far better shooter then and now than I have ever been.
This is not a good thing. It means we’re not giving the gold medal to the best shooter on the day anymore 🙁
I got one of these (direct from MEC, but you can get them from Intershoot.co.uk now) a while ago to try out.
Looked great, but had a few problems – for a start, my rearsight got a little complicated:
Okay, so some of that got stripped off, but even after that, it was still a bit… busy:
Now, I have a fairly pronounced cant on the rifle, so that introduced another problem – the duplex is only anchored at the top and I don’t know if it’s my one alone or the design, but when you cant it, the iris doesn’t hang vertically, it moves slightly to one side and makes a mess of your sight picture, so you’re fiddling with its adjustment a fair bit to try to get everything aligned. And speaking of which, the sight picture itself gets a bit more complicated as well:
The problem is that the gap between the rear iris ring on the outside and the middle ring of the duplex is just as critical as the centering of the foresight ring in the rear iris, and unless the duplex is perfectly centered in the rear iris – and locked solidly in place – then you get a sight picture like the one above, and if you’re mid-match and fixating on the target, you don’t notice the small drift offcenter of the duplex in the rear iris.
Now I know these can work; I saw one or two being used to good effect in Intershoot and in RIAC by the Dutch team (it’s hard to see but look at the rearsight of Peter, second from the left in the photo):
But for me, the Duplex is now sitting in the pile of Bits I Bought Because They Were A Good Idea At The Time But They Haven’t Worked Out So Far But Maybe With A Bit Of Work They Will Later On…
The new post-London rule changes from ISSF are out, and some of them aren’t great at all. But there’s still time to change things before November, and in the hope that someone somewhere might read this to the right person at some point, I thought I’d put up a few suggestions for ISSF to achieve their stated goal:
All Olympic sports today must become more dynamic, attract more fans, engage the public with more drama and provide great shows for youth, spectators, television and the media.
As I’ve said many times before in many places, the problem with being a spectator of ISSF shooting is not that it’s boring; it’s that you can’t see it.
Look at football (any kind of football) and you see people spread out over a large physical area and a visible ball being passed around as the visually distinct teams try to move it to a visually identifiable goal. You can see the game happen, as it happens.
In shooting the game is too small to see with the naked eye from the stands, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s not visible to the naked eye from even a few feet away. The average punter won’t notice Debevec’s position being any different from Emmon’s in kneeling; won’t notice the signs that Piasecki is having a good day or a bad; won’t be able to tell who’s really handling the pressure in a finals. That is the challange you have to overcome. Do that, and you’ll get interested fans and drama and great shows. Changing the number of belt loops won’t change that.
Why did they go wild? Was it the tension caused by several hundred people watching one man standing there on the line taking the final shot of the match, everyone knowing he would win or lose the gold medal depending on whether his score was higher or lower than a 9.7? Was it seeing that shot land and knowing instantly that he’d won it? Was it the commentator taking the entire audience to that point by walking them through the progression of the finals and winding them up for that final shot?
Or was it down to the blinders being smaller? The belt loops fewer? The buttplate being restricted from turning on an axis parallel to the boreline of the rifle? The shooter walking in a normal fashion? The dress code being adhered to? I don’t think so.
So with that in mind, here are my suggestions for how to meet that challange and achive the goal ISSF has set itself:
Make it mandatory for World Cup level events and above to have wireless Noptel/Scatt/Rika electronic trainer setups attached to barrels for finals and presented on screens above the shooter. Show the spectators the shooter’s approach to the target, their settling, their hold and their wobble and their triggering. We’ve tried that before in a Eurosport shooting match some years ago and it was magnificent – and more to the point, we know it can be done and how…
Make it a contractual obligation with Suis Ascor, Megalink and any other ISSF-approved electronic target manufacturer to produce software that lets you share scores live on the web (and by software, I mean software that works well, is robust and easy to use, not the poke-your-own-eyes-out-with-a-butternut-squash nightmare they currently have). Every shot, as it’s fired, should be up on the web, whether on a custom website or on Facebook or Twitter or all three. It isn’t rocket science, it’s a fairly simple task, using standard well-understood tools (I say this as an engineer who’s done this for a while).
Hire the commentator from the London Games to be the official ISSF commentator on the ISSF youtube channel and for all ISSF major events in the future.
Make it mandatory to use Twitter and Facebook duing ISSF major events and to up the amount of interaction we see. One single press release with an image from an event was a good step forward, ten years ago; today it’s just not cutting it, and the demographic ISSF want to capture is used to far more. More than half the shooters from the international circuit are on Facebook, and lots are on Twitter as well. If you can access both from a mobile phone, and you have professionally paid PROs at these events, then you can tweet/facebook from them too.
Drop this idea of resetting scores to zero for finals. If you have to do this duelling model for finals – and you don’t, London proved that – you can do it without doing the resetting of scores. Archery’s been doing that for twenty years now. And beware – if you show a wildly different style of shooting to the public in the finals than they’d encounter when they try the sport themselves, you’ll be sabotaging yourself…
Lots of changes to times for matches, to kit, and a scarily inexact comment about banning Vibration Reduction Systems from all rifles and pistols, without a clear definition of what those would be.
Not comforting reading and while most of the changes are things we could live with, and a few are changes that will make events more efficient and which aren’t bad ideas in and of themselves; I still think the thinking behind these changes is failing to acknowledge one very fundamental principle. All of these changes are being justified by wanting to make the sport more exciting and accessible to the general public. But none of these changes are things the general public will ever see or notice. Belt loops, shoe shapes, times during qualifications – nobody ever sees those unless they’re eager to see them, and if they’re eager to see them, then they’re not the demographic the ISSF is looking to attract, they’re the demographic we already have.
Was it the tension caused by several hundred people watching one man standing there on the line taking the final shot of the match, everyone knowing he would win or lose the gold medal depending on whether his score was higher or lower than a 9.7? Was it seeing that shot land and knowing instantly that he’d won it? Was it the commentator taking the entire audience to that point by walking them through the progression of the finals and winding them up for that final shot?
Or was it down to the blinders being smaller? The belt loops fewer? The buttplate being restricted from turning on an axis parallel to the boreline of the rifle? The shooter walking in a normal fashion? The dress code being adhered to?
I don’t think it was any of the latter, do you?
If you want to bring in a spectator who knows nothing of the sport and get them excited, you have to show the spectator what you’re doing. Look at football (any kind of football) and you see people spread out over a large physical area and a visible ball being passed around as the visually distinct teams try to move it to a visually identifiable goal. You can see the game happen as it happens.
In shooting the game is too small to see with the naked eye from the stands, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s not visible to the naked eye from even a few feet away. The average punter won’t notice Debevec’s position being any different from Emmon’s in kneeling; won’t notice the signs that Piasecki is having a good day or a bad; won’t be able to tell who’s really handling the pressure in a finals. Unless you show them, with big screens showing electronic target results, cameras showing the shooters close-up, commentators explaining the state of play for neophytes, even things like strapping noptels or the like to the rifles.
You want to attract people to our sport? Do that. Don’t write rules that nobody understands and that seem to ban every firearm made since the late 80s!
This smells of change for change’s sake, and change made without sufficient analysis or data. And that’s bad news for our sport.
BTW, there are blog entries about RIAC and Intershoot on the way – it’s just hard to find time to blog when training, competing, moving house, in a crunch time at work and when Herself Indoors is eight months pregnant. But I’ve got my notes and I’m getting through them…
Up at a reasonable 0700 or so this morning. Sweet brass monkey eunuchs but it’s cold. Somewhere between -8C and -10C. Peter’s diesel estate wouldn’t start first time yesterday for the first time since he’s had it because of the temperature, and today it’s colder. And I don’t like the look of that fairly large cloudbank we can see off in the eastern sky either. We do *not* want hail today thanks.
Down for breakfast (Rolled oats, water, milk and five minutes on the hob for excellent porridge! Breakfast of champions! Three minutes more than for that microwaved gunk, but it’s more than worth it!), and a cup of coffee, we pack the few things we’re carrying with us — my netbook and shooting diary (got it printed up as a book and it turned out nicely, we must see if we can sell a few of them to raise money for WTSC‘s new range fund), fruit and water for all of us, and Paul’s rifle and stand — and we head off for the range. It’s a brisk mile of a walk, interrupted only to scare the wits out of the chaparone for the Welsh junior squad by trying to be helpful and offer directions to the range without realising that they might have odd notions about strange Irish chaps wearing low-pulled caps, sunglasses against the glare and wind, and wearing neck gaiters over faces (did I mention it was cold?) 😀
Oh well, it was character-building for them 😀
Anyway, on to the range, and we got out our kit and got our heads into the game. Aisling was still shooting, having had the ungodly-hour start this morning, so we watched her for a while, but she seemed to be coping well so we left Kealan to keep watch and went to get ready. The plan from the diary was again, quite simple:
0815 Leave for range
0830 Arrive at range, warm up
0900 Assemble kit
0930 Kit on line, ready to go
0935 Prep time
Watch inner position and feet.
WATCH SIGHT PICTURE!!!
The sight picture was the lesson learnt from yesterday; I figured if I could watch it for this match as my main focus, I’d do reasonably well. My head was in the game, at least for most of the match; though I confess I did check the score near the end. Stupid, stupid, stupid…
Starters went off well, my zero looked okay and I spent a dozen or so shots just getting into the rythym and watching the sight picture. The backdrop was different today, we were back up on the firing points we’d trained on on the first day, so that was familiar. We were also smack in the middle of the webcam’s field of vision but alas, nobody thought to snag a photo of us 😀
Some folk commented about the shortened sleeves of the jacket here btw (it’s hard not to notice them) – the truth is that the only problem was that I didn’t cut enough off the right arm. I should have taken another two inches off of it. The arm doesn’t give you any support in standing – all it gives you there is a shoulder pad to put the rifle’s buttplate on. The rest of the arm is only there for those who shoot three positions – the sleeve’s needed for prone and useful for kneeling. Honestly, I might well just hack off the arm on the new Kustermann jacket too. But if you do hack it off, do so well above the elbow – otherwise when you bend you arm to reach the pistol grip, you may hit the material of the jacket above the elbow with your forearm, bowing it outwards and creating unnecessary wrinkles which can muck up your buttplate positioning. The left arm does need the sleeve, for the arm-side contact point, but that one got cut too, just because the arm was too long – it was down to my thumbs 😀
The sight picture worked really well – I’d mount the rifle as normal, watch the target while settling (looking over the rearsight, which is very easy with the MEC Free rearsight), check the foresight against the background to be sure it’s in roughly the right place and isn’t swinging about all over the place, then lowered my head down to the cheekpiece. But while lowering my head, I’d look through the rearsight for a final pre-aiming view, at which point the foresight tunnel would appear to be just touching the top of the inside of the rearsight. That let me check my horizontal centering, and then lower my head gently while fully exhaling to the cheekpiece to center vertically. Triggering followed naturally on from there.
Of course, that didn’t settle down until the middle of the first string, so there were two wild eights in there (well centered, just high because the cheek pressure on the cheekpiece was wrong)… but there was only one more in the next 55 shots, which was far, far better than the last few international matches. The series scores weren’t the highest I’ve ever shot, but they were consistent: 94, 95, 97, a slip down to 93 thanks to that third eight, then two consistent 96s to finish. And of course, I did check the score in the last string. Stupid, stupid, stupid…
Still, turned out well enough – a new International PB of 571 and my first international MQS 🙂 In fact, it’s a new competition PB overall – I’ve shot 574 at home in UCD in front of the NTSA before coming out to Intershoot, but not during an official match.
I was rather happy with that, in fact, and went off to decompress (my feet felt awful, like someone had put them in a vice and tried to squash them flat) and get some food (I was starving by the end), log into facebook and skype home and find a cup of coffee. Which is why, when they called out the team medals and I realised we were in contention, I had to sprint down from the spectators gallery. But I wasn’t caught as off-guard as Ray was, because he’d just finished shooting in his second finals of the week (Ray made the finals on all three days) and was just changing out of his shooting kit into his tracksuit when they called us up for third place (that’s why Ray is in his socks in the photos 🙂 ).
Oh yeah, third place, did I mention that? International medal for Ireland. You know, just another thursday…
That’s what the Americans so endearingly refer to as a shit-eating grin, and it took several hours to get it off my face 😀
Right now, some Irish readers who aren’t shooters are probably wondering why a third place medal is a big deal. Here’s why. The team medals went, in order to:
The Netherlands shooting team
turned up in their own bus (as in, they owned it, custom painted, the works);
had several coaches (famous ones like Dick Boschmann, who’ve written all the textbooks on shooting – open up the first few pages of Ways of the Rifle, the widest-selling ISSF textbook of all time and you’ll find their coaches right there), managers, gofers and so on;
are all fully-funded, full-time shooters and have been for a few years aimed at London 2012, and all started years before we can have a licence in Ireland;
England shooting team
fully funded full-time shooters who started years before we can have a licence in Ireland;
had the largest team contingent there with coaches and managers and staff;
there on holidays from work, training in our free time, paying for everything out of our own pockets;
one overworked sod as staff doing all the paperwork, management and dogsbody duties;
our coach back here on the other end of a phone line;
doing all our own cooking, shopping, and all the sundry stuff the others had taken care of for them (and that’s rather a lot – do you know how much 7 adults working 12-hour days in subzero temperatures at a rifle match can eat, and still lose weight?);
And despite all that whinging, we were only 20 points behind the English team, and only 32 behind the Netherlands team (out of 1800 points) and when you look to the PBs of our team we could have pulled up 16 points right there just by equalling our best. Add to that the point that my kit was ten years old and way past its best-before date and the point that my rifle hasn’t been serviced in the past ten years (the lads on the circuit will have theirs serviced at a minimum once a year, and more normally at every major international match by the manufacturers (who go to the matches to do so) and that’s another few points from the kit alone. So when you take the kit element out of it, our scores were right up there in contention for the gold medal.
Now don’t get me wrong – the lads on the other teams are lovely chaps, all of us are friends and they’d be the first to offer to help if anything went wrong in a match and vice versa (it’s not unheard of for competing nations to loan each other everything and anything on the line (yes, rifles included), and we usually stay in the same places and eat together) and I’m actually rather proud to get to compete with them and when Huckle shot that 598 we were all thrilled for him because he’s worked so hard for it.
It’s just that looking at those scores, there’s a part of me that wonders at how, in only our free time outside of our full-time jobs, we’re close enough to full-time fully-funded Olympic teams that the gap could be closed with just money, and not that much money at that. And that part of me is desperately proud of what us little Irish shooters can manage to do.
But hey, that’s just me.
Anyway, we figured that we’d pack up the kit and head back to the chalet, maybe get a nap in the afternoon after lunch. So we walked out the door to find that that cloudbank in the eastern sky that morning had shown up after all:
Feck. Three inches or so of snow inside of four hours. This does not bode well…
…but in the meantime it’s all pretty! 😀 (If fecking cold when all you’re wearing is underarmour and a light tracksuit designed for warmer climes!)
So back to the chalet, stopping along the way to photograph a very arty frozen beach (it was so cold, the wind was catching the spray from the waves and by the time it hit us, it had frozen into ice)…
…and also in the campsite shop to do another round of shopping, picking up more chicken for dinner tonight, some herbs and spices (exotic things like pepper!), some hamburgers and baps for a lunchtime treat and a packet of chocolate biscuits because feck it, medal 😀
After lunch (burger-flipping!), we watched Caroline maintain her score from yesterday, Peter shooting well, and I got started on dinner (chicken marinated in ginger, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and white wine, cooked in barbecue sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and other veg, served with egg-fried rice made from the first day’s rice pilaf leftovers – which won me the title of chef de partie, which roughly translates to wheresmebloodydinner 😀 ). After dinner, it was sauna time, and since it’s not every day in Ireland that you have both a sauna and a foot of snow on the ground…
PS. We heard later (we only ran into the lads once during the entire trip because we were always on different shifts in the range) that the Northern Irish Pistol Team also won a bronze medal in their event — well done lads! Ain’t it a grand view from the podium? 😀 )
This morning was a bit of a shock to the system – we got back to the hotel last night to find that the bus timetables had been altered, and we’d only have ten minutes from arriving at the range to the start of shooting if we took the bus we were hoping to take. So we had to take an earlier one, which meant a rather unpleasantly early wake-up call, so instead of breakfast at 0800 for a 1015 start, we were up at 0600 for the 0700 bus. Remember, we’re a timezone over here, so to us it was an 0500 wakeup call, after a bad night’s sleep (I never sleep well the first night in someplace new, nor before a match) and food which was, well, decent enough but not plentiful enough (nobody ever believes how many calories a rifle match like this will burn off – by the end of the competition when I got home, I’d lost seven pounds in five days).
So up at 0600 local, the usual ablutions minus the shaving (stubble over cheekpiece makes a noise that warns of poor cheek welds — that’s my story and I’m sticking with it), and down to breakfast.
Look, european hotels, I get that you don’t do full Irish breakfasts, I really do. But seriously. What. The. Frak? Small steamed beef sausages that looked for all the world like a jack russell terrier had just used the chafing dish as a sandbox. No hot food apart from that at all. And yes, you had scrambled eggs in the chafing dish longside the distinctly unpleasant looking sausages, but It. Was. Cold. I mean, you have a major sporting event in your hotel, with a hundred or so shooters staying there, you couldn’t keep the scrambled eggs warm? Gah…
Anyway, after a DISTINCTLY UNPLEASANT BREAKFAST (I’m still looking at you, unnamed european hotel, don’t go thinking this is over), we got on the first bus out to the range, arriving there at 0730 and spent the next two hours basicly doing nothing, just waiting. Read a little, write up notes a little, but mostly waiting for 0930, which was down as our go time.We found a quieter area than yesterday by swiping an unused changing room (which we wound up sharing with Bindra while he hid from the documentary crew who were merrily playing havoc with his prep), and got down to the task at hand.
0930, Prep the rifle and kit.
0945, Wall-watching in full kit, getting muscles warmed up and getting our heads into the game, looking for that still point.
1005, On the line at the start of prep time, ready to go.
As matches went, it wasn’t horrible. My position from yesterday simply didn’t work though; I wound up giving up on the changes to the stock from yesterday and reverting to what I’d trained with in WTSC for the last few months, and that worked quite well. There were some nice series results and some bad; it was on the whole a less consistent performance than yesterday, but with much higher highs. The score was only off by a point from yesterday, but that one number doesn’t really tell the tale well at all. My mental focus for the match was actually really good – surprisingly so compared to yesterday’s mess; it was like all the worries had burnt themselves out. I still knew everyone at home was watching, I still knew we had a lot of spectators, but for the most part I was absolutely fine with it, it was just a background detail like the colour of the floor behind me.
There was one exception to this, and you can actually see it in the start of the fifth string; just before that I’m doing okay, with a 98, and then there are several low 9s and an 8. I’m reasonably sure that was because a rather daft cameraman from the Indian documentary team, in his quest for the best B-roll footage available, stuck his camera out around the side baffles at the target end of the range as I was loading my rifle which, because it was on the stand at the time, was pointed right at his head. This might sound minor if you haven’t shot before. If you’ve spent a decade or two shooting and training new shooters and the one rule that comes above everything else for you during all those years is to not point a firearm at another human being, well, you might appreciate that it can disturb your focus a little.
To be honest, I did entertain the notion of shooting his camera lens just to highlight the danger to him, but I’m pleased to say I didn’t. Even though he deserved it.
Anyway, aside from that kick in the pants, some things were learnt, including a possible new way to settle down in the sighters by just running through a half-dozen shots as rapidly as possible, ignoring the score, just looking to settle the mind. And a muscle (an abdominal one just below the navel) which I hadn’t noticed was tensing up before this. And finding that as much as we’d tried in WTSC to get me to shoot with air in my lungs, it just doesn’t work when I’m under stress, probably because I’ve had a decade or so of doing it that way. Maybe we’re on a hiding to nowhere trying to unlearn that habit.
Some nice groups in there in string one and in string four; string two has a tight group and three loose shots; string three is just a bit too scattered and string four is all over the shop at the start but it recovers, and then there was a serious drift for three shots in the last string. Good cores, with fliers in most cases. I can live with that, and more, I can improve on it.
Once the match was done, we packed the gear away into the armoury, bought a few beanies (or mingies if you’re in the Defence Forces 🙂 ) for the home range, and then found the latest Mouche synthetic suit…
If you’ve never seen one of these, or you’re not technically minded, you’re now thinking “It’s trousers. What is the eejit taking photos of them for?”. But these are the latest thing and they’re notable for a few reasons. First off, unlike the usual canvas and leather suits we wear, these pass the ISSF Equipment Control tests from the moment you buy them. They don’t age the way canvas ages so you don’t need a new suit every other year. They can be washed. Yes, that’s right, you can’t wash a canvas suit. Ever. For the two or three years you’re strapped into it, it can’t be washed. I leave you, gentle reader, to come up with a figure that indicates how much you’d pay to be able to wash a suit you’re going to be strapped into for a few dozen hours a week…
Was your figure €1900? No? Well, that’s the figure. Plus, add in the money for flights to Germany because you go there with your rifle and stand in position and they measure you and cut the material (which is for all the world like someone made loose-weave linen with a white plastic and then run it through heated rollers to make this kind of plastic weave) to fit you and they assemble it right there and then. So for Irish shooters, it’s €2500 or so by the time you get it home. Two shooters have them in Ireland now, and we’re seriously, seriously curious to see them in action 😀
Anyway, we then headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap (and a jog for Ray) and to get some food and sleep. It’s a funny thing about these matches – you will burn off more calories than you think you can, and you’ll need far more sleep than you think possible. I’m sure we’re going through between three and five thousand calories a day here, we’re definitely needing to go through three litres of water a day at least, and you need to be trying for 12 hours sleep (you won’t get it, but it’s what you need). And tomorrow, it’s an 0530 (local time!) start to be on the firing line for 0800. Yay!
By the way, we noticed today that target shooting over here is – shock and horror – actually thought of as a sport by the media. Back home, we’re basicly treated by government and media alike as being criminals just waiting for someone to turn their back for a moment before we plough through the nearest creche eating babies. Here, we’re in the papers in the sports pages and people accept it as totally normal. In fact, they just don’t understand why the two crazy Irish lads thought this was a great thing – we must have looked like some random strangers ooh-ing and ah-ing at running water in a hotel bathroom…
So up earlyish, said goodbye to Herself Indoors as she headed off to work, then loaded the car and headed to the airport. Met up with Ray and off we went. The trip was fairly uneventful, oddly enough, but I guess that’s Lufthansa for you – efficient, unflappable, calm. All terribly civilised, and even the trip through Dublin airport was hassle-free, a first for me. The exact opposite of KLM… but that’s another entry. We got to the hotel, met up with Peter and squared ourselves away for the next day, which was for training and equipment control.
Training went well; some small modifications to the buttplate to get on target, and a good string or two (97 with an 8 in the last string) and I called it quits for the day and went to equipment control; only the rifle was checked and it was fine. So back to the hotel we went, got something to eat and turned in for the night to hit the first match early the next morning with an 0900 wakeup.
Day one was a nice easy wakeup at 0900, breakfast in the hotel (why, oh why, do european hotels never ever have decent porridge? It’s always cold meat and cold cheese and cold cereal and any hot food is usually fairly unfamiliar or hard to digest. Not what you want when you’re facing into a shooting match) and then to the range by bus. Arrived there well in advance. Got the kit prepped at 1315, was doing holding exercises at 1330 and trying to ignore the documentary team that was following Bindra around. Seriously guys, great to see you doing that, fantastic to see a shooter get publicity, we need it for our sport, but what we don’t need is a member of a film crew in the news because they walked into a danger area on a range and got shot…
Prep time was at 1350 and the match kicked off at 1400. And I don’t think I have ever been more anxious in a match in my life. You know there are 200 people on the range between shooters and spectators (and there aren’t that many shooters). You know everyone back home is watching your score and will be wondering if you’ll put in a score that doesn’t embarrass you. And it doesn’t help that up and down the line are shooters who are famous (at least in our little circles) for putting in high scores. Dick Boschmann (as in, the guy whose Rika/Scatt/Noptel traces are in every single textbook on shooting published in the last decade) is over there coaching the Netherlands team, the GB team is enormous with coaches and managers and lots of people, and we’re just these two chaps over here on vacation days. It’s an easy spiral to get into, and I spent my entire match fighting it, doing a little better in each string until the last string when I had a rather weak finish for a total of 568.
That’s my domestic competition PB. In my first international match. Feck. Not too bad for a start, that. I would have preferred the MQS, but you have to start somewhere and I’d say there were a few folks who didn’t think I’d hold my domestic competition standard (me amongst them), so that’ll do for a start.
The printout from the system gives a better sense of what was happening though:
You’ll notice the final overall group is large, but not particularly biased in any direction. Wider than tall, but that’s normal. Basically, my hold went to pieces, but not so badly as it felt at the time – I visibly had the shakes when I came off the line. It didn’t help that the electronic targets in use here do not show a match timer and I don’t normally take a watch to the line because the megalinks we use at home do show that timer, and I’ve been trying to ditch that urge to carry everything from my toolbox up to the firing point, instead taking a minimalist approach. However, the decimal scores (which are really a better indication of performance) rose string-on-string all the way through to the end when my worries over time got a bit out of control. The breakdown of scores wasn’t great – five 8s? Ich. But tomorrow is another day, so we pack our kit up and leave it in the armoury and head back to the hotel for food and sleep because tomorrow is an early start…
Oh, and what opening post in a match report doesn’t have photos of the range?
So there’s been a few bad matches in UCDRC (some truly awful, some just really bad), but training there outside of a match showed that whatever’s causing that was to do with the range itself; and the standard of shooting in WTSC has remained at the 97/98 average. So next tuesday, I get on the plane with Ray Kane and we go meet Peter Friend in Luxembourg to shoot in RIAC 2011, and in a rather unexpected twist, this won’t be as club shooters, but as the official Irish Team for the match, which will be the second time I’ve gone abroad on an Irish team and the first as a shooter.
Seeing your name up there like that – Woot!
The range looks nice and well-lit and clean, the target systems are all electronic, and though the field isn’t very wide, it’s going to be quite deep – I’m looking forward to watching James Huckle shoot in particular. And if I can keep my smartphone working during the trip, I should have a few nice photos for the blog during or after the match. Watch this space…
Back to training after the UCD August Open, and started with Matt and I having a talk about what went wrong in the Open. With the few days rest between the Open and tonight, there was a bit of perspective and we both came to the conclusion that while there are still small technical things to work on (like my trigger finger alignment), the main problem is a complete lack of proper mental preperation for the match.
Thing is, y’see, we’ve never really worked on mental prep before. Logistical planning for matches, yes; technical training, intensively yes; physical training yes; but mental training is the next thing for us to learn how to train in. When I started shooting air back in ’98, we didn’t know how to train people to shoot properly. Safely, yes – we weren’t exactly lax in the safety department at any time – but we just didn’t know how to train people. We’d show them the rifle, show them how to safely shoot, and then just let them repeat that until they got good or went home. We practiced, we didn’t train, and there is a very significant difference. Some individual shooters would go off and get coaching from outside the country, but that rarely works, if ever. At the time, we had a contract with a coach who’d come over to train the national squad once every 4-6 weeks, and he went blue in the face saying this over and again – you can’t train properly through this “masterclass” approach. You need to have your coach there on a far more regular basis, to see you progress, to see the failures, to see you under pressure and relaxed, and to figure out what route is the fastest from where you are to where you want to go.
Dirty little secret in target shooting – while good kit is important, you gain more points per euro spent if you spend the euro on good coaching than on any other possible outlay.
Which is why people drive hundreds of kilometres to get to WTSC – it’s not the range, it’s Matt and Geoff’s coaching.
However, we’ve spent the last decade going from not knowing how to train to knowing how to train physically and technically and how to do logistics; how to train mentally has always been the next step to take, but until now, we’ve never really been ready to take it. Now, we are, and now we’re taking that step. That’s going to be the next phase of training for me and Paul and Ashling and all the other WTSC shooters.
Though we will be fixing my trigger finger alignment too 😀
Anyway, after that rather productive chat, I kitted out and we just started shooting. Nothing specific, just shoot so Matt could watch the trigger finger again. Almost immediately, I could tell the difference between Sunday and tonight – my hips weren’t moving as much when they came forward at the start of the shot routine, and I noticed that that DURC dance (face the wall, hips square to the wall, then swing your hips from left to right repeatedly. It ain’t catchy, but every DURC airgun shooter seems to do it…) wasn’t happening because I was naturally moving my hip right slightly to load and then left properly to mount the rifle. In UCD, I’d had trouble with that – perhaps my stand wasn’t as well placed as I’d thought.
Some dry-firing to start, and after 20 mins or so, ten shots to check the sights:
Matt didn’t say anything, so I just kept on shooting, but I kicked it over into the first string because I’d moved the sights and wanted a clean target.
Matt still hadn’t said anything by this stage and I just figured what the hell, I’d shoot a match. Wasn’t planned or anything, and it didn’t feel like my position was as rock-solid as I’d like, but I wanted a baseline after Sunday’s mess.
At this point I had to take a short break for five minutes – my right knee was in a fair amount of pain (I couldn’t bend it) and my feet were going numb. Unfortunately, this was the point where I noticed the score, and between that and the physical fun, things just went downhill fast…
And at this point, I’m thinking “Feck. Just shoot another 95/96 here and I’m looking at a new PB in the mid-70s” which is of course, the stupidest thing in the world to be thinking. It wasn’t helping that my knee was now telling me that it was formally considering seceding from the rest of me and filing for independent recognition with the UN on the grounds of inhumane treatment (I hyperextended that joint rather badly a few years back and it’s never really forgotten or forgiven me for that). The next nine shots got progressively harder and more disappointing, and the tenth was pretty much everything I had to give…
So there we go. Another MQS, under rather imperfect circumstances physically. Kindof proves Matt’s point – I was far more rested and in far less pain on Sunday, but my head wasn’t relaxed and centered and so my performance was dire; tonight I was in agony at the end, hungry and tired after a long day of work, and I still managed a 70 despite two tail-end strings that were ridiculously bad.
Talking about it with Matt afterwards, we both agree that even with the ridiculously bad suit and shoes I’m using now, there’s a 580 there for the taking. Going over the actual shots and looking at the scores, there’s a good six or seven 9.9/9.8 type shots that just squeaked out, and an 8.9 at the start – that’s not even counting the falling apart shots in the last strings. So there’s a new goal – get that 580 in the current suit. Once I do that, and change up to a proper new suit, well, that should be another few points of a jump 🙂