Aiming for Olympic gold
Team GB’s Tim Kneale on world records and his chances in Rio
Work on any sports desk around the world and you will meet a series of frustrated sportsmen and women who simply didn’t possess the talent, skill or drive needed to become an elite level athlete.
But that does not stop them from reminiscing about former sporting glories or watching on and thinking, ‘that could have been me’.
Sadly this is very much the case on the 7DAYS sports desk. Yes, we are failed sportsmen and years behind a desk have left us rather rotund around the waist.
Still, we are competitive and that means we are willing to take up a challenge.
This week that meant testing our hand, eye coordination and handling a rather intimidating firearm. For it was time to get a lesson in trap shooting with world record holder Tim Kneale.
The 33-year-old from the Isle of Man specialises in the double trap event and will be representing Great Britain at the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro.
In fact he had just been to Brazil for an Olympic test event and was now in Dubai teaching a rather intimidated journalist how to shoot.
“Shooting is very much about mental preparation as everyone out there can shoot. But it’s about making sure your head is in the right place,” explained Kneale, who was speaking to me at Jebel Ali Shooting Club.
“For me it is a building process. It takes me a bit longer to get in the right frame of mind so I use events as stepping stones to build confidence towards a major championships.
“The hardest thing is dealing with the expectation and the pressure, as pressure is not a real thing, it’s just what you create in your own mind.”
I was very much feeling the pressure when handed 10 shells, some rather sizeable ear muffs and my trap shotgun.
Still I had Kneale to teach me the tricks of the trade. He showed me the right stance, how to position the gun against your shoulder and, most important of all, to place your cheek right up against the gun.
Of course, this goes against every instinct, but it lessens the impact when the trigger is pulled and allows you to look right down the barrel.
For some last-minute advice I asked Kneale about his world record when he hit an incredible 148 out of 150 targets at a World Cup meet in Germany.
“It was just one of those days that conditions were perfect at the Munich range and everything went right,” began a modest Kneale.
“I had recently changed my mental approach and had worked hard on being able to release the pressure I was putting on myself.
“The previous record was 146 which I had to shoot just to make the six-man final. But everything progressed and I ended up winning a silver medal. It was a great day.” The time had come. The first target was released and with all my concentration I watched intently before finally pulling the trigger. Much to my surprise the disk exploded. Beginner’s luck. Nine shots later, with targets having moved at various angles and at different speeds, I had a 50 per cent success rate. Not bad, but I certainly wouldn’t be threatening Kneale’s spot on the British Olympic team. “Shooting is very much on the day but there are a few guys who have managed to get that consistency and always seem to make finals,” Kneale told me. “Generally a lot of people peak in and out of events. So it’s all about building to the Olympics. “The first half of the year has been about preparation and I have been using events as training events. “Now it is all about increasing my performance and trying to gain a few medals before Rio.” So having competed at the test event in Brazil and with less than 100 days until the Olympics gets underway, is Kneale managing to deal with the pressure?
“It was great to have a dry run and see the Olympic facility,” added Kneale.
“Everything looked really smart and it ran really well so I’m looking forward to getting back over there in August.
“I’m definitely feeling well prepared and it was a great fact-finding mission.”
It seems there is even hope if I decided to spend my days at the range.
“People develop at different rates, the guy who won the world championships last year had been shorting for 18 years,” said Kneale.
“All ages and abilities can have a go and it is very accessible. Plus there are great facilities in the UAE and you have got Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher Al Maktoum who won gold at the Athens Olympics. He also trained Peter Wilson who went on to win gold at London 2012 so there is great coaching coming from Sheikh Ahmed.”
Perhaps that sporting dream isn’t dead after all.
“The hardest thing is dealing with the expectation and the pressure.” – TIM KNEALE