Monday, 19 August 2019

Learning from training under time pressure

In the lead up to the World Cup I had been focusing very much on training and getting the correct position. This though meant that I had not given so much attention to the timing of the competition and I was feeling a bit detached from how I shoot under competition conditions. Whilst the time has not been a particular issue for me, it still caused some problems as the pressure of knowing I was restricted in time meant that I would sometimes rush a shot when I should have taken a bit more time. So I want to solve this in readiness for the World Championships so that I don't rush any shot.

To overcome the problem I decided it was time to start doing training under timed conditions so that it becomes normal. It would mean I would be used to judging how long I am taking and the time remaining, but also it would mean that in competition I feel I need not do anything different to my training.

The last week I have spent some time training the 5 shot series, those which come at the start of a final. My reason for this choice is that they are a medium length and so possibly the most difficult to judge. In qualifying competitions there is plenty of time ans so it is possible to check with my assistant about how long remains. In the single shots in a final the time is sufficiently short that I think I can judge that reasonably well.

The first thing which became clear is that when you cannot see the time available, you need a bit more than the 10 seconds warning which is given in a final. We think that may be a minute is about the correct amount of warning for a 5 shots series.

Today in training it became clear that whilst I can shoot very well in this timed condition, it is noticeable when I am getting tired or distracted. I was just shooting the 5 shot series, doing about 60 shots in total but leaving only a little gap between each series. As I started to tire the time I took for each series started to get longer and a few bad shots started to creep in. Once this became obvious I took a slightly longer break before the next 5 shot series and I then started to shoot faster and the quality also returned.

Whilst in competition I would never shoot so many 5 shot series, this training possibly has helped to identify when I start to get tired and when I really should be taking a break in my qualifying competitions. Finals are a bit different as they are shorter and you cannot determine the pace of shooting. Instead in a final you need to work out how best to use the time between shots to prepare for the next one.

Since doing this timed training I am starting to feel better about my shooting and more ready for competing at the World Championships. I think I will be continuing it for at least the next few weeks. Who knows what else it may teach me about my shooting.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Give your view on blindfolds in vision impaired sport.

In a previous post I gave my view on the topic of blindfolds in vision impaired shooting. It is now time for you to give your view on the topic.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

To see or not to see

To see or not to see, that is the question in vision impaired shooting. Whether it is fairer to require all to wear opaque glasses or not.

World Shooting ParaSport made provision in the international rules to allow them to designate competitions requiring all shooters to wear opaque glasses. Whilst no competition this year has been designated as such, there definitely is talk about enforcing it sometime soon. The thought is that it is obvious when watching vision impaired shooting to identify who has some useful sight and who has not. There is a thought that those with some useful sight are gaining an advantage through their sight and that it can make a mockery of the sport. The solution being proposed is opaque glasses to try and equalise the sport.

As you may imagine there are some who really oppose this idea. I am mixed in my views on this. My biggest objection is more from a disability ethics point of view, I feel it is wrong to make someone more disabled than they normally are. In no other part of life do we ever consider disabling someone further, in fact we normally try and encourage people to make the most of what they have. So why is sport different? I fully appreciate the need for creating an equal playing field, but why take such a negative approach, surely a more positive approach by creating adaptations and allowances for those with less sight would be better. As an example of a positive approach I would use blind cricket as an example where totally blind batsmen must have at least two bounces of the ball and blind fielders may make a catch even when the ball has bounced once. Admittedly creating positive adaptations and allowances is more difficult, they may be more complicated for people to understand and may not satisfy some that equality has been achieved.

So if we put the ethics to one side and accept that opaque glasses are a workable proposal, will they help create an equal playing field and give the correct image of the sport?

One significant objection is that those with partial sight are less adapted to life without sight and so the opaque glasses would disproportionally impact upon them. They claim that those who have no sight will be better adapted due to living with no sight 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Whilst those with partial sight may train with the opaque glasses, this training time will never compare with being in the condition permanently. Whilst I accept this argument to an extent, it cannot be ignored that the totally blind person may have other disadvantages such as limited training time due to not being able to train independently, greater difficulty in learning certain sport concepts due to not being able to visually watch a demonstration and also not being able to use some visual training techniques such as position training with a mirror. Also for those who have been blind since birth, they may never have developed certain skills such as balance when they were younger as they never had the visual queues to help perfect the skill.

There is also an informational inequality within the sport. By this I mean those who can see the electronic target display are likely to have far more information than a shooter with no sight. The phrase "A picture is worth a thousand words" comes to mind. As good as my assistant is, they cannot give me anywhere near the same information about the group shape, size, position, etc in a timely manner as a sighted person can by taking a quick look at the display. Also in a final where time is limited, it is much quicker to visually look at the time remaining, instead I would need to signal to my assistant I want to know how much time remains, the assistant needs to check the time and then communicate this back to me. If taking a positive solution approach, then one possible option would be to consider giving those with limited sight additional time to allow for the time it takes for the assistant to provide the detailed information. How practical that would be in competition I am not sure. The last thing to say about information communication is that those who cannot see the display fully rely on their assistant and must have full trust that the assistant has got it correct. If you can also see the information, then you can form your own opinion and decide whether to ignore the assistant or not.

So in conclusion, from a practical point of view I can see how using opaque glasses may equalise the sport. Whilst they may disadvantage those with some sight, we must remember that those who are totally blind may face additional disadvantages as well. When considered as a whole, based on reasoned argument I think it may actually result in something fairly equal, but it may be good if research could actually be done to confirm this. However the ethical aspect does bother me, making people more disabled does not feel like something which should be acceptable in this day and age, we really should be taking a more positive approach.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Experimenting by mixing the old with the new

For many years the Swarovski ZE-B618 was the most common audio aiming system for vision impaired shooters. The Swarovski system was a light based system requiring a bright lamp and a target with a white centre. However recent the international standard is the infrared LED based systems such as the EcoAims VIS500 or VIASS Pro. This means that many vision impaired shooters are going out and buying new aiming systems, quite a costly thing to do.

I was aware that the Swarovski aiming device although based on light, it does actually detect infrared as well. So I had the thought, can a Swarovski ZE-B618 be used with the infrared LED? If this is possible then it could save many people a lot of expense and also simplify vision impaired shooting competitions where the organisers want to allow people to continue using their old Swarovski aiming devices.

As I am currently having a slight break from training after the World Cup, I decided to do some experimenting to see how well the Swarovski aiming device would work with the infrared LED. First thing to do was use the white centred targets to check that my Swarovski aiming system was offset. I wanted to make sure that when I started my experiments with the LED that I would not hit shoot the LED.

Once I was certain the device was offset, it was time to point the rifle at a target fitted with an LED. The Swarovski was definitely finding the LED and giving me a change in tone. It did sound a bit different to using the target with a white centre, it was smaller and did seem to flatten off a lot in the middle. It was time to put shots down the range and see what sort of group I could achieve. To minimise error from myself, I was shooting using a support rest. Whilst there was a group, the size was much too big for me to even consider using it for competitive shooting, it was out to the 7 ring on a rifle target. May be I was no longer used to the Swarovski sound as I have been shooting with the EcoAims for some time now. Even taking this into account, I don't think the Swarovski aiming device with the LED could ever come to the same accuracy as the newer devices.

So sadly I have to conclude that the Swarovski days for international competition are over. There may be beginner or club level VI shooters where the Swarovski and a LED is more accurate than the shooter, but these would not be limited to using the LED as an aiming mark, they can continue using the target with a white centre.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Making travel plans for the World Championships

Now the World Cup is over and I have achieved my qualifying scores for the World Championships in both standing and prone, it is time to start making arrangements for going to Australia for the World Championships. I previously wrote about booking flights for a shooting competition. Up to now I have only ever flown within Europe and on direct flights. Normally in Europe laws are sufficiently similar and the freedoms of movement within the Eu means it is not a problem to take the air rifle.

Yesterday I was getting the flights booked for flying to Australia and there were a few more things to consider compared to normal. I will need to apply to get a permit for the rifle in Australia, but I also need to consider the requirements in countries I transit through. The flights which at first looked like the best were via Hong Kong. However as I looked into the requirements for the rifle, this was looking not as good as I would have to apply to the Hong Kong police for a permit even though I would only be in transit at Hong Kong airport.

With so many possible options on routes via different transit countries, I decided the best thing to do would be to get a travel agent to assist me with checking what the airline and airport requirements would be for the various routes. This may not be the cheapest option, but I think it is well worth it if you don't want to have to spend the time yourself checking every airline and every route yourself. In the end we selected a direct flight, where the plane only lands in Singapore to refuel, this seems to be the simplest on the paperwork.

With the flights now booked, it is time to get that paperwork done for the Australian gun permit. Whilst this admin stuff is not very interesting in itself, it though does make it all seem more real that I am actually going to the World Championships. I am starting to get excited about going.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Success at World Cup

I have had a great time at the World Cup and it is time to give you all an update on how I got on.

Friday was the standing competition. This was a very tough competition for me. The weather was hot and I was struggling to keep cool inside my shooting suit. As well as that, I seemed to have caught a cold just before departing for croatia and I think that was affecting my ears and balance. All I could do was try and keep myself calm and shoot as well as I could. My shooting was not up to its usual standard, but it was sufficient to get me through to the final. I was feeling quite exhausted after the standing qualifying, but after some motivational talk I tried pushing a bit more in the final. My shooting improved a bit, but I was still struggling and finished in 5th place.

As the prone shooting was not until the Sunday, this gave me a couple of days to recover. Also being sat down for prone probably means that balance is less important. I was actually feeling quite positive about my prone going into the competition. The qualifying match went fairly well, although still not my best, but good enough to make the final. At the beginning of the final I could feel my heart racing. It took me a little time to bring my heart under control and then my shooting started to improve. Throughout the final it was difficult to know who was going to win as the lead kept changing. As the final progressed I realised I was getting closer to achieving my goal of being a medalist, then we got to the point where 4th place is eliminated and I realised I was still in the competition. This gave me a little boost and after two more shots I found I was still in the competition meaning I would either be first or second. I managed to keep gaining on the leader over the next two shots, however it was not quite enough and so I finished in second place with the silver medal. I am so pleased with it, particularly when I consider how recently I started doing the prone shooting. The prone final can be seen on YouTube.

Both results are sufficient as qualifying scores for the World Championships later this year in Sydney, Australia. Now I have returned home, as I come of the high of my prone success, I will start preparation for the World Championships where I hope to have further success.

Finally a thanks to all who have helped me. Special thanks to Pauline my assistant for the many hours of coaching and training. However there have been many others such as those helping with equipment, training, financial donations through my GoFundMe campaign, as well as encouraging and supportive words. It all helps me do it.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Ready to shoot in the World Cup in Osijek

As you may know this week will see the WSPS shooting World Cup. I have already travelled out to Croatia for it and the last few days I have been busy getting the official things checked off before the actual competition which happens over the next few days.

As you may know, to reduce flight costs I decided to fly to Budapest in Hungary and then take a hire car to get to Osijek in Croatia. Some people seemed surprised about flying to Budapest as it is in a different country, however it is a similar distance from Osijek and was much cheaper for flights than it would have been flying into Zagreb.

I arrived in Osijek mid afternoon on 23 July, which gave me enough time to find where the range is. The 10m air range is in a sports hall, thankfully considering how hot it is here there is some air conditioning in the sports hall.

Yesterday, 24 July, was the day for getting all the official approvals done. First thing to do was get the shooting equipment checked. Sometimes this can be a really slow process if not organised well and if you go at the same time as many other people. Thankfully things seem to b fairly well organised for the equipment control here and it took not too long.

After a bit of lunch, it was time to do a small amount of training to just check that everything was working after the flights. Again no problems here, seems like our packing was sufficient to let the equipment survive the flight.

As sight classification was not until later on in the evening, this meant there was time to do a little shopping and relax having an ice cream. As you may know from this previous post about sight classification, it can feel a bit like a lot of bureaucracy. After the sight classifier looked at my eyes and did a quick sight test, I was pleased when I was told they were going to give me confirmed status due to me having no light perception. The confirmed status means that I should not need to go through the sight classification process again unless anything with my sight changes. For most athletes with some sight they will be given a status of review which means they need to have sight classification done again at future competitions.

It was quite a relief to have got all this official stuff out the way, now all that remains is to actually shoot in the competition. I will have a little bit of pre-event training this evening for my standing, then it is the standing competition on Friday. Saturday will be my training for prone, with the prone competition following that on the Sunday.

Learning from training under time pressure

In the lead up to the World Cup I had been focusing very much on training and getting the correct position. This though meant that I had not...