This year has been character-building and great fun! A learning experience that has taken me all around the world; from Australia at the beginning of the season, to Delhi at the end and many others in between!
Just like any athlete’ sporting season, there have been highs and lows. The highs started in October last year, when I qualified for the Commonwealth Games ‘Test Event’ held in February in Delhi and ultimately for the Games themselves in October!
Shortly following in November, thanks to all my support in winning the British Airways ‘Great Britons’ competition, I flew to Australia for the Oceanic Games. With my brother Alex who was my stand-in GBR Manager, I won Silver! Not belonging to an Oceanic Country, I competed as a guest. Surprisingly, when it came to the medal ceremony, the organisers didn’t have a Union-Jack to fly! In jest my brother suggested they rolled up the corners of the Australian Flag, but it was declined! Upon hearing this, the Rowsells (great family friends who have kindly been like my second home this year, as they live near Bisley), gave me a Union-Jack for Christmas that along with a St. George’s flag, now travels with me everywhere!
Due to the firearms restrictions in the UK, grabbing this opportunity to compete and importantly train for two weeks at Sydney’s Olympic Range was great. But revelations then followed in January when the UK gun laws were relaxed for the 2012 Olympic Squad and.22 Pistols were allowed to be fired in England. However, the exceptionally strict conditions mean we’re only able to fire them at one of the ranges at Bisley, Surrey and at the Bedford range. Additionally, only specific people are able to attend (for example my Mum and Dad couldn’t even come to watch me train!) This has meant only a few training camps have actually happened this year.
Photographed by Mike Alsford
With more competitions under my belt around Europe, then came the Commonwealth Shooting Federation Championships (Test Event), a climate and culture change! An irreplaceable brilliant experience of competing (and surviving!) in India, at the actual venue for the Games. Eye opening! I returned with two Bronze individual medals as well as a Silver and Bronze in the Pairs matches (Air and Sport Pistol respectfully) with my team mate Julia Lydall. Upon returning from this trip to India, I was featured in Devon Life Magazine, but my claim to fame is the initial picture the photographer submitted for the article was turned down. I was “too sexy” for page 13!
Ring O' Bells, Chagford I may be based in Devon, but it was only for short periods between trips that I was around! The Coltons and Team at Fingle Bridge Inn, as well as Colin and Fran Davey at the Ring O’ Bells, Chagford were amazing at fitting me in with a little bar / waitress work when I was home. This is fantastic to keep me sane from the pressures of competing and travelling!
Travelling around the UK is now no-longer a problem, thanks to the kind support of John Gregory at Gregory Distribution. Five of us South West athletes; Liam Tancock (Swimmer), Jemma Simpson (800m Runner), Heather Fell (Modern Pentathlete), Nick Dempsey (Wind Surfer) and myself formulate Team Gregory. Each featuring individually on a haulage lorry and five ‘team lorries’, has had a very positive response! Friends and family contacting me all the time saying they’ve just seen me on the M5 etc……when, for example, I was actually across the pond in America! ‘Steve’ my GoTeamGregory car, (named after my hero Olympian Steve Redgrave!) is fantastic. The most unbelievable help to my training you can imagine. Meaning I can be based in Devon and get to team training sessions and airports etc. around the UK without any concern.In seven months Steve and I have clocked up over thirteen thousand miles!
An invitation to London, to mark the ‘Two Year To Go’ milestone of the 2012 Olympics was awesome! Having the opportunity to be in the Olympic Park and the Main Stadium itself was inspiring! Chris Hoy, Sir Jeff Hurst and Boris Johnson are just examples of the people I met, chatted to and got a ‘happy snap’ with! After Michael Johnson had run the first 100m in the stadium, (when no one was looking), I quickly took the opportunity of being in the blocks of the London Olympics!
My season continued to the World Championships in August. I was disappointed with my performance in Munich, but you can’t keep a Devon Lass down for long! Bouncing back up again, I found myself packing my English red and white kit for the Commonwealth Games! Seeing all the images in the media prepared me further for what I was to face, which upon arrival was not that bad! The living conditions were “fine” and food in the dinning hall, brilliant. I was very conscious to stay healthy for the duration, as I was competing on the first and last day of the two week period! The reward of my efforts came in the form of a bronze medal! And interviewed by Matthew Pinsent! Worth it!
Radio Devon Plymouth Studio
I was overwhelmed by my kind well wishers via phone, text, email, twitter etc. from all around the world and can’t thanks you all enough for your support this year. The www.gorgs4gold.com website has been a huge success, keeping people in touch with my developments not only over the Commonwealths but throughout the year. This is largely thanks to Steve Roebuck at Moonstone Solutions, a fellow Devon shooter without whom I would be lost in cyber-space!
Liam Tancock, Gorgs, Heather Fell and John Gregory
Upon returning from Delhi, three personal achievements have been accomplished. Firstly being asked down to the Radio Devon Studios in Plymouth early on a Sunday morning, to do their newspaper review! Secondly, being interviewed on the pitch at half time, live on SkySportsTV at the Exeter Chiefs (whom I’m an avid fan!) v London Irish Premiership Rugby match. AND having a kick on goal, of course in the style of my other hero Jonny Wilkinson, again live on TV! Finally, this year I have had a small amount of sponsorship from Lloyds TSB Bank in the form of their Local Heroes scheme. In recognition of my success in Delhi all the South West newspapers featured a ‘Gorgs Lloyds cartoon character!’ What fun, I’ve made it!
Sport is a great leveller. 2010 saw me going onto the British Shooting World Class Performance Programme. Just one of six funded shooters and the only pistol shooter. All sports received a 20% loss in funding, of which Shooting was no exception. Sadly I fell within this margin and as of December 2010, I will be purely self-funded. Therefore I’m now more than ever thankful to all those who have and continue to support ‘Gorgs’. (For example, Helpful Holidays of Chagford, RWS and Phil Unwin for my ammunition and of course TeamGregory). It all helps and are part of ‘TeamGorgs’!
2010 Commonwealth Games Shooting Team
Coming off the Performance Programme definitely does not stop me being a World Class Athlete. It just makes my life a little more challenging. I will greatly miss their monetary support when it comes to entries, flights/travel and accommodation for International trips. But where there is a will, there is a way……! Thank you so much for your kind support this year.