I was lucky to be one of the recipients of an Olympic ticket to Royal Artillery Barracks, many thanks to my brother for getting the ticket during the lottery.
I decided that I would take a week of annual leave and head over to soak up the Olympic fever as the Games will never be so close in my lifetime. So I flew into Heathrow on August 30th and with a plan to visit many Galleries one per day that London is home too and be amongst the Olympic Spirit while watching the Games live on Big Screens in Victoria Park, Hyde Park and Potterfiled Park. I knew that I would be witness to a Gold Medal shoot on August 2nd.
As I walked my feet off around London taking in the sites and happiness that eminated from the city the morning finally came to make the planned trip to Woolwich. First a brisk 5 minute walk to Euston Tube Station for the Tube to Charring Cross then downstairs to Platform 4 for the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) train to Woolwich Arsenal (where I got chatting to the daughter of a prominant lady in the field of shotgun shooting) then it was onto a bus for the 5 minute journey up to the Royal Artillery Barracks.
Listening to people along the way you could feel the air of anticipation growing as Peter Wilson from Team GB was a high hopeful for the Gold, but shooting sports can produce all kinds of results and winners, when the final shots are sent rattling down the bore who would be Olympic Champion?.
I watched the Double Trap qualifiers that morning for an hour then made my way to the qualifiers for the .22 Rapid Fire Pistol in the huge artistically and well designed indoor rifle range. I had not seen a Rapid Fire Pistol event before so this was a first for me today and yes they do shoot fast. In one detail the competitors must shoot 5 shots at 25 Metres with only 4 seconds on the clock. I thought that the scores and accuracy would drop from a 10 to an 8 at this speed but I was wrong, these guys had it down to a fine art. They dropped in 10’s like they had all day to do it. I was amazed at their skill and accuracy.
As the afternoon progressed I had the opportunity to visit the 50 Metre practise range to watch the competitors sight in and practise in the standing, kneeling and prone positions with target rifles. This was great to see and it allowed me to get within 5 Metres of the shooters to see them prepare their gear and watch their shooting movements.
During the lunch break I got talking with a woman under a large oak tree as we sheltered from the ominous grey clouds that delivered a downpour. She was from Puerto Rico and was in Europe travelling and had taken a detour to her holiday to come and watch her brother Jose shoot. Unfortunately he did not qualify for the final and just at that moment he came along and he was introduced to me. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out an Olympic souvenir pin from Puerto Rico and gave it to me as a gift. He was happy with how he shot but said he could do with a beer so he popped over to the stalls for a cold one.
Later that afternoon at 3PM the final of the Double Trap began and it was a close match all the way through. With the scores from the qualifiers appended to the final score it was all to shoot for. Peter Wilson from Team GB was ahead by a few points but a Swedish, and not one but two Russian shooters were hot on his heels as they dusted clay after clay. As the closing stages were creeping up the top 4 could only be seperated by a single point at times. The crowd were clapping, cheering and breathing with relief each time their countryman dusted his two birds and the pink dust scattered in the easterly wind.
Peter Wilson must have shut down for a split moment as he missed two complete birds with just three shots remaining, the crowd in the stands exploded into muffled whispers and gasps which I know Wilson felt reverberate throughout his body. The Swede and Russian now in 2nd and 3rd place respectively were playing catchup but Wilson had to make the next shots count, there was no margin for error. PULL and out of the trap at 100km/h two birds took flight with shots on their tails they fell. Wilson had recommpossed himself. Although not yet out of the woods he still needed the final two birds before he could feel the weight of 400 grams of Olympic gold hang from a ribbon.
All eyes where on Wilson as his final birds were called and the shots once more followed their destiny and they both dusted the birds. Wilson fell to his knees weighed down with a broad smile and the title of Olympic Champion. It was a great experience too watch a Gold Medal event and to feel your heart rate rise and fall with each shot. The Olympics for me as a sport shooter and spectator were an experience I will remember for a long time to come.