The 2016 Commonwealth Shooting Federation (European Division) Championships where hosted by Wales for the first time since 1989, with the majority of the competitions held between 23rd and 25th September in and around Cardiff. Prior to that the Fullbore Rifle events were held at Bisley on 27th & 28th August and the 25m Pistol events were held on Jersey between 2nd and 4th September. A total of eight countries fielded 205 athletes who made 317 starts across the four disciplines of Fullbore Rifle, ISSF Pistol, Rifle and Shotgun.
At CSF(ED) Championships, up to four athletes per country may be entered in each event, with a separate competition for developing athletes being run with a notional limit of two entries per country. Pairs matches, no longer a part of the Commonwealth Games other than for Fullbore Rifle, are held. In some events these Pairs matches are concurrent with the individual competition, in other events they are shot as separate competitions, which does tend to complicate an already congested competition schedule.
The Fullbore Rifle events were shot alongside the Welsh Open Meeting, following the course of fire as per the Queen’s prize, i.e. 2 sighters and 7 shots to count at 300/500/600 yards, 2 and 10 at 300/500/600, and 2 and 15 at 900 and 1,000 yards. The Pairs event was shot concurrently and decided on a simple arithmetic addition of scores made by nominated pairs in the individual competition, rather than the separate shoot with the pair coaching each other that forms part of the Commonwealth Games. Mike Barlow took the Bronze in the individual event, combining with Bruce Logan’s individual 5th place to secure the Silver in the Pairs event.
Jess Liddon was our sole competitor in the 25m Pistol events in Jersey, which unfortunately didn’t include Finals for any of the Olympic events. Jess secured the Gold in the Women’s Sport Pistol event, and built on the experience to raise the Scottish Record at another competition the following week.
Moving to Wales, the remaining events were held at three venues: Shotgun at South Wales 2000 close to Mynyddislwyn – a high location with marvellous views to the North West over Blackwood with the Brecon Beacons visible on the horizon. 50m Pistol and Rifle were held at the Tondu Target Shooting Club, to the north of Bridgend and the 10m Air Pistol and Air Rifle events were held in the familiar settings of the SportWales National Centre at Sophia Gardens in the centre of Cardiff. With a minimum travelling time of 30 minutes between any two venues, getting around in time to support other team members proved challenging to say the least!
Significant investment in electronic targets from a number of sources over a number of years within Wales meant that the 50m Rifle and all 10m events were shot on electronic targets, with ISSF Finals for the Olympic events, and live results were available online for all of these events throughout the weekend. Without access to larger electronic targets for 50m Pistol however, that event was shot on paper targets and the individual medals awarded without a Final being held.
With a small number of athletes unavailable, STS selected a team of 12 Pistol, 10 Rifle and 12 Shotgun athletes for the events in Wales, largely drawn from the athletes in the High Performance and Fast Track squads, augmented with additional selections from within STS’ development squads and athletes who had shown a marked upward performance trend through the earlier part of 2016. The eventual team shrank slightly after the withdrawal of two Rifle and two Shotgun shooters for a variety of reasons – with a wide range of experience across the team. A support team of six accompanied the athletes to Wales.
Friday morning saw the team get off to a Golden start with a win for Áedán Evans and David Owen in the Men’s Air Pistol pairs, with Nick Pye leading the field in the non-medal ‘Badge’ match for those not contesting the Pairs event. A second Air Pistol Gold followed in rapid succession for Caroline Brownlie and Alexandra Tucker in the Women’s event. Up at the Shotgun venue the Golden theme continued with Sharon Niven and April Brown combining to win the Women’s Trap Pairs. Sharon and April both qualified for the Individual final stages, making it through to the Gold and Bronze medal matches respectively, Sharon taking the Silver and April the Bronze. Sian Bruce also made it through to the Bronze Medal match in the Women’s Skeet, coming away with the fourth Shotgun medal of the day. On the 50m range, all three of the Scottish Men made it safely through the elimination rounds of the Men’s Prone Rifle, but missed out on a medal in the Pairs match. The final medals of the day were secured in the Women’s Prone Rifle. Fiona Crowden and Sarah Henderson combined to take the Bronze in the Pairs match. Much to the relief of both women, a Final was held in this event as well, Fiona just taking the Bronze ahead of Sarah in 4th place.
Saturday morning began at Tondu with the 50m Free Pistol. An interesting challenge for the shooters, apart from the varying light levels, was the smoke drifting across the range from the black powder shooting taking place next door! A good result though - silver for Alan Goodall and David Owen in the pairs, bronze for Alan in the individual and 3rd place for Andy Ralston in the development match kept the medal count ticking over. In the Men’s Prone Jim Main qualified for his first international final, but was eliminated early on. On the 10m range, the individual Air Rifle events were running with our only entrant Vikki Walls taking 7th in the Women’s event. Back up on the hill, Drew Christie qualified for the final stage of the Men’s Skeet, missing out on the Gold Medal match after a shoot-off, but securing the individual Bronze.
Sunday was the final day of the championships with the individual air pistol events on the 10m range. In the qualification rounds, all three Scottish Women and all four Scottish Men qualified for their respective finals, with a new Personal Best of 574 securing equal first place for Nick Pye in the Men’s event. Exciting finals followed in both – Caroline Brownlie edging out Wales’ Coral Kennerly to win the Women’s event by 0.1 with Alexandra Tucker and Katie Knowles 4th and 6th respectively. In the Men’s event Nick Pye had a slightly easier time, building a lead through the latter half of the final which saw him a comfortable winner – Alan Goodall, Áedán Evans and David Owen taking 5th, 6th and 8th respectively. On the 50m range Bobby Spence and Brogan Smith were in action in the Men’s Three Positions Rifle, both qualifying for the final but well off the place set by the three GB Academy athletes who took the medals – taking 5th and 6th places respectively. On the Shotgun ground it was the turn of the Double Trap shooters in what had become very blustery weather conditions. Both Calum Fraser and David McMath qualified for the final stages, but after a hiccup and ‘spirited’ debate amongst the jury members which saw the semi-final restarted, neither of them progressed to the medal matches.
The medals only tell part of the story of course, and there were good performances elsewhere amongst the team, with a number of junior and inexperienced senior athletes gaining experience and performing well in a slightly more intense competition environment than they are normally exposed to. The medal haul could have been higher - the Rifle group in particular was under-strength with four experienced athletes unavailable – and the clash with the British Trap Grand Prix was unhelpful – but as much of the value of these championships lies in the development of less experienced athletes, and with the interactions within the Shooting team as a whole as it does with medals won. What is really disappointing to see however is that we have very few – if any – events in which there is any meaningful internal competition for team selection at this level, and only in a small number of events were we able to enter the maximum of four athletes per event.
This event is the first time in 2016 that the Pistol, Rifle and Shotgun shooters have all been at the same competition and, whilst it is a shame that the Fullbore Rifle and 25m Pistol shooters weren’t with us, a CSF(ED) Championship at this stage in the four-year Commonwealth Games cycle is an excellent opportunity to start pulling the multi-disciplinary team together and while the venues were scattered interaction of the athletes across disciplines was great to see. It was also the first opportunity for the new support team to work together in a competition environment and valuable lessons have been learned that will help as we move forward towards a Commonwealth Championships in 2017 and the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Thank you to Shona Marshall, Marco Micheli, Diego Gasperini, Lindsay Peden, Janis Thomson and Anne Grethe Jeppesen who provided support for the athletes at the various venues, and to Janis and Lindsay for their reports which I have plagiarised with abandon. Many thanks also to our Welsh hosts and all the officials for delivering an excellent competition enjoyed by athletes and spectators alike.
Full results are available online here: http://wtsf.org.uk/csfed2016.html
Report by Donald McIntosh, Team Manager