Returning from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last October, with a Pairs Bronze medal around my neck, was great. But I was actually quite disappointed with my performances in India and knew I could do, and would need to do, a great deal better in order to keep on track for London 2012. At the end of that very same month, I was called to a meeting with the Performance Manager of British Shooting and my Coach. Although without any warning, I wasn’t completely surprised, when the first piece of news was broken to me. I had been taken off the Performance Programme and therefore the funding and support I’d had that season. Then the unexpected came from my Coach, who announced he was resigning as the British Shooting Pistol Coach. He was also leaving the RAF, where he’d been all his working life and was to become a woodwind instrument repairer! I struggled to hold back a nervous giggle at this point…….a mid life crisis perhaps?! They say everything comes in threes. Two weeks later I was training at Okehampton Rifle Club, where it was painfully obvious something was wrong with my Air Pistol. Taking the grip off to have a naive look, it literally fell apart in my hands! But it was only in the New Year that I realised the extent of that low moment, where I stood with no money, no coach, no gun and only 18months out from the London Olympics!
Having fallen off many a pony/horse when growing up, this situation didn’t phase me mainly because of the fantastic support network, I call ‘Team Gorgs’ that surrounds me. Prioritising, I wrapped my Air Pistol up and sent it straight to Harry Preston, the Steyr Technician, who worked his complete magic and returned it better than new! Not wanting to waste a moments training, having my .22 Pistol at home (not in Switzerland any longer), meant I could dry-fire and continue my preparations. I felt this was very important, as I had slipped into many bad technical habits, which I needed to erase. This continued hard work technically and working along side Alexei Jannsen on the psychology side of things, is simply what has made the difference on competition day.
My improvement was evident, but I needed to prove this by shooting a British Shooting Qualifying Score (Air Pistol 381/400) at a nominated competition (of which I did on a couple of other occasions), to be considered for selection for the Major Internationals (World Cups and European Championships) of the season. Even though I became British and English Champion again this year, frustratingly I managed to shoot either 379 or 380 on nine occasions throughout the season! That one point eluded me and blocked my selection. Qualifying for the Majors was so important because it was performing at these, achieving a British Olympic Association (BOA) standard that would qualify me for the ‘Host-Nation Quota Place’ GBR has for the Olympics.
The New Year saw my attentions divided between Air and Sport Pistol. Having my .22 Pistol at home is brilliant for ‘dry-firing’, but this is just not the same as ‘live-firing’ without the obvious shot recoil etc. ‘Live-firing’ is still very restricted in the UK, so with kind friends I’ve made around the world, I went for two training camps in Kuwait and France. These were invaluable training opportunities, being able shoot daily, restriction free for a week each. Doing this proved even more worth-while than anticipated, when our three (May, June and July) four-day training camps at Bisley became stunted. These days were the only opportunity for the GBR Olympic Pistol Squad to train and undergo selection matches in the UK. Melville, the only outdoor range in Britain we’re legally allowed to train on had been double booked. Not paying as much for the range hire, we were pushed to one side and able to shoot for example; not on Thursday, Friday, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, tops! Not a great opportunity to train to raise my game to the British Shooting qualification standard.
There was light at the end of the tunnel. With the combination of my determination and all those who make up ‘Team Gorgs’, at the final trials opportunity before the last Major of the season, the European Championships, I was selected to make up a GBR Pistol Team. There were three 2012 Olympic Quota places available in Belgrade for any country to win. To cut a long story short, I achieved the BOA standard required sealing my consideration for ‘Host Nation Quota Place’ selection. I’m the only GBR Pistol Shooter to have done this and there are no other opportunities to achieve it with the Sport Pistol before the Final GBR Olympic Team Selection at the beginning of April! If that wasn’t exciting enough, another elated phone call was made home because at the climax of the competition, I’d also won the second of the three Quota places available. “Mum guess what, I just won a Quota! Dad would be proud; I’m just off to be Dope Tested!”
What a difference a year makes! I never questioned my bounce-back ability! I’m now the first British Pistol shooter to have ever won an Olympic Quota place. But at the same time I need to continue the hard work and improvements I’ve made, to ensure I seriously worry the World! This achievement hasn’t made any difference to British Shooting re funding etc, but I’m not backing down now!
I’m only able to achieve the concentration on my training, thanks to the fabulous support network that makes up ‘Team Gorgs’. My family and friends are simply awesome! A big thank you also goes to John Gregory and the Team at Gregory Distribution. Their support of my car (Steve!) means I can have my focused training base in Devon and travel around the country (usually up the A303 to Bisley or a London Airport!) to train or compete with the rest of the GBR Squad. Priceless. Having this support, as well as my other sponsors for example, my ammunition from Phil Unwin at RUAG in Cornwall, the team at Helpful Holidays, Humble Abode Lettings, Ashfords Solicitors, Lloyds TSB Local Heroes, Chatham Marine, My Fairy Godmother and the Sticklepath Pram Race, has been brilliant. The invaluable time and help from Steve Roebuck, Moonstone Solutions, keeping my website (www.gorgs4gold.com) updated and therefore everyone in touch with my developments has been instrumental. My funding being cut has meant looking elsewhere for support has been essential. The continued backing of all the team at Fingle Bridge Inn and the Ring O’ Bells Chagford, giving me work when I’m in Devon, is very much appreciated. Every little helps.
To raise some extra funds, I’ve too jumped on the ‘London 2012 Olympic’ bandwagon! As a potential athlete I’ve turned my hand to Guest Speaking at business conferences, awards evenings and schools etc. which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Speaking about my experiences, sacrifices, challenges, training and psychology etc. etc. and all about a non-mainstream sport, has kept each very different audience captivated!
A trip to Trafalgar Square with Dad for the launch of the campaign ‘Knot for Violence’, which I’ve just got involved with, was a great day out to the ‘Big Smoke’! It was fun meeting Amir Khan (boxer) along with the other sporting stars involved. Someone did comment to me, “Gorgs, really, it’s not often that the person whose press-call it is, has a camera herself!” Got to be done!
I was also invited to the British Olympic Ball in October. It was a fabulous evening hosted by Stephen Fry, Miranda Hart and Rory Bremner. I was very honoured to be surrounded by such iconic Olympians of the past and present! Truly inspiring to be considered on a par with so many of my sporting heroes!
Sometimes I wonder if the customers in either of the pubs realise who they’re being served by….e.g. .…a ‘Metro and Evening Standard Page 3 Girl’ or should I quote “Britain’s Lara Croft Aiming for Olympic Gold!”
Thank you for your support.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!