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Aiming for success requires sacrifice

Under-21 squad member Kathryn Williamson reveals what brought her to the sport. . .

Sacrifice applies to most sports but ask Kathryn Williamson and she will explain why it is so true of small-bore target shooting. At the age of 16, she has made rapid progress into the set-up of the Scotland team - a nation which has enjoyed great success over the years, from the achievements of Alister Allan and Robin Law, to the more recent golden moments of Sheena Sharp, Susan Jackson and Neil Stirton.

It hasn't been easy, for although it may be an Olympic and Commonwealth discipline, funding is restricted to all but those in the highest echelons. And for those who believe target shooting is on the wane in this country, they should look to the example of the Lockerbie Academy teenager as proof that the sport has a new, fresh generation coming through to boost the ranks. That doesn't mean it's any less hard work, however - far from it.

"The more you do get involved in any sport the sacrifices you have to make," Kathryn explained. "I suppose I noticed this first two years ago when I decided to give up my weekend theatre school so I could attend more competitions. I had realised that I couldn't do everything and had to prioritise, some things taking a back seat. Although it's really important to me, shooting isn't my main priority- school is. I'm in fifth year and doing five Highers so that adds a lot of pressure."

How she became interested in the sport at all is unusual. "I got involved in quite a weird way- there was a workshop run by Cyril de Jonckheere (Scotland B Team coach) and a couple other shooters for Annandale and Eskdale Sports Trust.

"Andrew, my brother, wanted to go and I tagged along. We both started going to Dumfries Club but Andrew, being a fencer, didn't really like all the standing still. It turned out I was quite good at it and stayed with it. Mum says I've 'managed to find a sport where I don't have to move'!

"They were offered the address of Cyril de Jonckheere as the representative of a local club," explained SSRA member Jim McIntosh. "The fact that he is a regional coach made it all the better.

The support from Kathryn's family has been phenomenal but that's what is required in order for anyone to get anywhere in the sport.

De Jonckheere recalls the introduction well. "It was held at Lockerbie Academy, her brother was interested and she came along for company. They then started coming to our rifle club to do air rifle using borrowed rifles after a few months she made steady progress and Andrew decided to concentrate on fencing (more action!)"

"She had a go with Sheena Sharp's rifle and decided in 2008 to get a Feinwerkbau. She paid for this with her own money an her dad bought her a jacket. I borrowed boots from Emma Cole-Hamilton and trousers from Shirley McIntosh and she worked away."

The target shooting community had rallied round to get this promising new air rifle shooter off the starting blocks but the demise of Dumfries Rifle Club left her without a range to practise on.

Necessity is the mother of invention, though, as Kathryn explained. "Travelling to Carlisle wouldn't really work so we decided to convert one part of our stables into a 10-metre range. We've got three firing points with electronic target changers, it can get a a wee bit chilly in the winter but I like how handy it is - it literally steps out of the house. My Dad and a couple of pistol shooters helped construct it all."

Kathryn was taken to the Hague as part of the Scotland squad for Intershoot this year but she had to fund the trip herself. It was primarily to gain experience of the big events - and it paid off handsomely. "I got a personal best  (PB) on the first day- 374 up from 370. The state I came off the range was quite funny- I had stressed myself out by getting two 96s to begin with and felt the pressure build up but I was pleased with how I shot. In the second shoot I equalled my old PB, with a weaker start but good finish this time. I was so happy with my last shoot, I managed to keep calm and get 383."

"She knows what she wants, is very competitive and applies what you tell her," De Jonckheere went on. "Her air [gun shooting] is getting good, she has recently got a 0.22 rifle and will start working with this when her Highers are over."

It seems likely that Kathryn will be just one of a number of up and coming athletes who continue to make the grade for Scotland.

Colin Watson


2000-2016 Scottish Smallbore Rifle Association