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.

Friday, 19 July 2019

The bureaucracy of international competition

Yesterday evening at my shooting club I had a discussion with another member about the administrative tasks involved in competing at an international competition. I think they were a bit surprised at what is involved, you might be as well if you are not involved in international vision impaired sport.

Today I am just going to focus on the sight classification process. I possibly have a unique perspective on sight classification as I know what went into developing the sight classification system through my work in IBSA, but I have also experienced it as an athlete.

The purpose of sight classification is to minimise the inequality caused by the different levels of vision impairments of the competitors. You would not want it that those with the best sight always win the competition because their sight gives them an advantage. To solve this problem sight classification determines who is allowed to compete in the vision impaired form of the sport, it may split competitors into various classes depending upon their sight or introduce rules to mitigate any remaining inequalities. In shooting all competitors who are allowed to participate as a vision impaired shooter compete in a single class, mainly because the sport is so small at the moment and we need to keep the competition meaningful with enough competitors competing against each other. Shooting does have some rules to help mitigate the inequalities which may exist, such as allowing the assistant to provide information about where shots have hit the target to athletes who cannot see the target display. A number of vision impaired sports do use blindfolds, which is a controversial topic as some feel it is wrong to make someone more disabled than they are normally and there is the question whether this temporary additional impairment may actually disadvantage those with some sight by placing them under conditions which is not their normal. There is no evidence showing whether blindfolds really achieve the equalisation they are meant to. Interestingly whilst World Shooting ParaSport has made a rule allowing them to require the use of opaque glasses by competitors, this rule will not be enforced this year and they avoided terming it a blindfold.

Now you know the basics of why sight classification is done and what it is, time to discuss the administrative work of how it is done. The first thing for the shooter is prior to competing internationally, they must get their ophthalmologist to complete a form about the vision impairment and also provide medical evidence. From my experience in IBSA, many shooters claim they have trouble getting their ophthalmologist to complete the form in time and sometimes the ophthalmologist not being familiar with the sight classification process does not provide all required details. The next part is that about a day or two before the competition the shooter will be seen by a sight classifier, who will check the medical documents submitted and see whether it is consistent with what they observe when examining the eyes or doing eye tests. The sight classifier will then determine if the shooter is allowed to compete and what sight class will be assigned.

Unfortunately there is no short cut through the above. Sight classification must be done by an international sight classifier according to the international sight classification system, so a national sight classification will not help. Thankfully for those where it is very clear they lack sight and there is no possibility of variation in sight, a sight classifier may assign the shooter confirmed status which means they need not go through the process again. However for the rest, they will have a review date set on their classification for when they will need to be classified again. The review date may depend upon how likely their sight is to vary over time, in the worst case someone may need classifying before each international competition.

This sight classification thing may seem like a load of bureaucracy, as an athlete I know how it may seem excessive. However I guess there will be people who may try and cheat so the system needs to be as water tight as possible. Is the system perfect, no I don't think so and I hope World Shooting ParaSport keep it under review as more people start competing and thus more data and evidence becomes available.

So that is the short explanation of sight classification. Now remember sight classification is just one of the administrative tasks. There are things like anti-doping, making sure medications are permitted and if not applying for a therapeutic use exemption. I also have to arrange all my own travel and hotels for these international competitions. Its surprising how all this adds up, there is more to it than just going and shooting a rifle. There are times when shooting feels like the easy bit.

Monday, 15 July 2019

A refreshing break before the World Cup

Last week I took a break from my shooting, instead going yacht sailing for a week in the Solent. This was part of the south coast blind sailing week. There were 22 Yachts and just over 50 VI participants. This year I was sailing with the same skipper as last year as well as his wife, but the other crew members I had not sailed with before.

After joining the boat in Lymington, the first place to visit was Bembridge. For those who do not know the area, it is only possible to sail into Bembridge close to high tide. At low tide there is very little water and you would be surprised you could ever get a yacht in there.

Requiring sufficient water to get out of Bembridge, it meant a 5:00am start, may be not quite the relaxing time I had intended. However being a morning person as well as it giving us time for a good long sail, we headed off round the south of the island and past the needles.

The next few days were spent sailing around, finding quiet spots to stop for lunch. One such place, which possibly is my favourite in the area is on the Beaulieu River.

As the week came to an end I had the chance to go on the Wetwheels power boat. I had not done this before and so was quite keen to do it. However I seemed to be at the back of the queue and so I had some time to relax on the yacht at anchor in Osborne bay. The wait was well worth it. The Wetwheels power boat has twin Sazuki 325 HP engines and is capable of going at 40 knots. This is probably the fastest I have ever been on water and then also to have the chance to steer the power boat as well. After that the last day of sailing on the yacht felt very pedestrian, although I think there is much more to feel on a boat under sail.

This brings me to the end of the sailing week and today I was back at the shooting doing some training in preparation for going to Croatia next week. May be the week break from shooting and doing something else has helped as I achieved a personal best league competition score. Its all looking good for the World Cup.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Booking flights for a shooting competition

In the last week I got the flights booked for me to go to Croatia for the World Cup at the end of this month. Those of you who are either not a shooter or are a shooter but have never competed internationally may have wondered about what is involved in flying to a competition with an air rifle. In this post I will discuss the process of booking the flights and arranging carriage of the air rifle. It is a simple enough process when you know what to do, but there are certainly things to watch out for.

The first difficulty is to find an airline who carries firearms. In general the low-cost airlines do not and the national airlines do. There are some exceptions to that rule so its always worth checking specific airlines before booking. This can affect the route taken. For me flying to Croatia, Zagreb is the most logical airport to fly to normally, but when you remove the airlines who will not take the air rifle the flights are expensive and/or involve multiple flights. Also it is worth checking what fees the airline charge to carry the air rifle, these can vary considerably. I have even once come across a flight which was a codeshare between two airlines, yet one airline charged much less for the rifle than the other. So if cost is important remember to add the additional fees to the ticket price.

I started to look for alternative destination airports. The most promising with a choice of cheaper direct flights with airlines who would carry the rifle was to fly to Budapest. Whilst the drive from Budapest will be a similar distance as it would be from Zagreb, it does mean we will be in another country and so need to check the laws of that country in relation to the air rifle. Within Europe this normally is not to much of an issue for match air rifles such as mine as it is of a low power. However typically there can be some confusion when discussing it with officials not realising what it is and so asking to see the gun license. After a bit of discussion they realise its a low power air rifle and then things are fine.

From this point on it generally starts to become simpler. In one case I was able to book the air rifle on the airline website at the same time as making the flight booking. However in most cases you need to phone the airline to add the rifle to the booking. I normally book myself as a blind passenger when booking the tickets, so I have always wondered what the person taking my call thinks when a blind person is adding a rifle to their flight booking. I have never recieved a comment or question about it, so either their training says to not ask such questions or they just don't notice or link the two facts.

After all this everything relating to the flights is now arranged. All that remains is to turn up at the airport and actually do the flight. I will write another post about that part around the time when I fly to the World Cup.

In Australia for the World Championships

As the World Championships gets closer, now less than a week away, I thought it was time to write another blog post. Last week saw me take t...