by NRA Staff - Friday, April 21, 2017
You started shooting position when you were 18?
I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I read an article about the 1968 Olympics in American Rifleman magazine about three-position shooting. Discovering something besides prone was a revelation. I borrowed a club rifle and started standing up during lunch hours to try it out.
Did you just teach yourself how to shoot standing?
I started with a Martini Mark II and found I wobbled all over the place. Coming from a prone-only background and not having any tuition [instruction], I simply tried to hold the rifle still. The business of keeping it still is something I tried to achieve from day one. Some coaches say that you must accept some movement but that’s bull. You simply can’t accept movement. My prone background made me believe I could hold the rifle still.
I dredged through old magazines and found a series of articles in Guns Review that included photographs of famous shooters of the day. They were from the late ‘50s—mostly of Russians. I adopted positions as described in the magazines. I trained every day and swam and ran as the articles suggested. I set my goal to make the 1972 Olympics. I started to fire 40 shots every day at lunchtime, standing with my Martini Mark II. I would go again in the evening.
In 1969 I found a group, the British Free Rifle Club, that specifically promoted three-position shooting. Before I could join I had to shoot a standard, 168 x 200 on one standing and one kneeling card at 25 yards. I made the club and that summer went to my first 50-meter three-position shoot. I shot a 991, or so, of 1200. The next shoot I had a 1050 and it was the end of the season.
What was next?
In 1971, I raised my averages and knew I would make the Olympic Team. So I changed my goal to achieve something in the Olympics, not just to be “up there somewhere.” In 1971-1972, I trained every day and I was the fittest I’ve been in my life. At lunch I used the track and, under the guidance of a top British decathlete, I did circuit training.
How did you do in your first Olympics?
I finished 12th in 300 meters with an 1139, one point below my British national record, which was really not too bad. I had only had my own rifle one year. I finished 14th in smallbore, a little disappointing because I had peaked at the right time, but it was to be some years before I was psychologically ready.
What happened between 1972 and 1984, when you won your first Olympic gold medal?
I took 1973 off and really had post-competition depression. I went to the European Championships that year, but didn’t care and didn’t really do very well. I trained for the 1974 Worlds but had a disappointing performance overall, although I shot my best standing and learned from it. I made up my mind to train for 1976. I came to the United States to train for five weeks and went directly to Montreal for the Olympics. I was so knackered [tired] from training that I had nothing left to give. I’ve never approached a match that way since.
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