Aim­ing for Olympic gold

Team GB’s Tim Kneale on world records and his chances in Rio

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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