Sunday, 22 September 2019

Changes in my prone

Since I started my prone back at the end of march this year we have made many alterations to my position as we keep learning things. I thought I would give a bit more detail on how my position has been evolving and why we are still changing things when there is only weeks to go until the World Championships.

Right at the beginning we started by trying to have me square on to the target facing down range, so my upper body was somewhat like the standard prone position. I just could not get on with that position at all,I kept dropping my left shoulder, the rifle never felt correct in the right shoulder, etc. Then there was the problem of the pain in my left hand, although that might have been related to the glove I was using.

The next thing I tried was to sit at an angle to the target. This brought my shoulders round to something closer to my standing position and I seemed to have much less trouble with keeping the shoulders level. Whether this was to do with the position being better for me or whether it was that it was just more familiar because of it being closer to my standing I am not sure. After changing the glove I had a position comfortable enough that I could start thinking about shooting a full 60 shot match.

I stuck with this position for a while getting used to it and it was the position I used whilst out in Croatia at the World Cup. The problem though was that the angles of my arms were quite low and so we had fitted a long extension to the butt plate. This made it difficult to reach to load with the rifle in position and the only way to adjust the sights was to take it out of my shoulder. This is when we started looking at a forend extension and reducing the length of the butt to bring everything back towards me. At first I was borrowing a forend extension from a club member, this did seem to help as it reduced the stretching when loading, I could adjust the sights in position and it moved the weight back a bit. The forend extension I borrowed had a height adjustment piece which unfortunately was getting in my way and so we looked at making a forend extension.

The custom forend was not going to be attached for long as last Friday we had Mike, one of the coaches at British Shooting, come to have a look at my prone and give us some help. His suggestion was to increase the angle of my arms, which we did by raising my seat. By bringing the arms up a bit means that they are better able to support the rifle and my hold seemed to improve when we did that. It also means my left hand is not as far forward and so we could remove the forend extension.

I may have joked about all these changes and how it seems like I have something different every time I go training. However I think now probably is the time to do all this as I don't want to get too attached to one position which might not really be ideal. We have much learning to do and we won't find things out unless we experiment. Based on how well I did in the World Cup, hopefully with these improvements, I should be in with a good chance at the World Championships and I am feeling quite positive.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Call for VI shooters

In the past I have mentioned about wanting other vision impaired shooters to take up the international disciplines. One reason is that I enjoy the sport and I want to share it with others so that they too have the opportunity to participate in the sport and to do it at the highest level they can. However this is not the only reason.

Here in the UK we actually have quite a strong domestic form of the sport with may be about 100 or more vision impaired shooters. The vast majority of these do support rest shooting from a spring stand, only a few in the UK actually shoot either of the international disciplines. Also the national vision impaired shooting competitions are all shot using the larger air pistol target where as internationally the air rifle target is the standard. In short I am the only vision impaired shooter from the UK who currently shoots internationally. There are times it can feel quite a lonely place to be as I don't feel like I belong to any team.

My local shooting club has been very welcoming and supportive, in fact I couldn't have asked for more. I have mentioned about going to national competitions and shooting against sighted shooters. It has been great going to those competitions with fellow club members and in some cases working to place higher in the results. However these competitions are only a fraction of what they do and over the summer there have been a number of outdoor competitions where club members have gone to which I cannot compete in. Then there are my international competitions which I am doing separate to club members.

Historically vision impaired shooting has been quite separate from the rest of disabled shooting in GB, probably partially due to the competitions being held separate. Even though I am now going to the same international competitions as the rest of the parasport shooting team, I still feel external to the team. At this point I have not done any training with the rest of the team and so when I am at the competitions whilst I may recognise some of the names, I would not say I necessarily know the other GB shooters. Also for all my international events I have had to make all my own arrangements for travel and hotels rather than being invited to travel with the rest of the team. This though does have its advantage as it gives me the freedom to choose what suits me better, such as taking a cheaper route to the World Cup and not being restricted to wheelchair accessible hotels.

So if we had a few more British vision impaired shooters doing international disciplines then may be we could have a vision impaired shooting team. It would be nice to have some others doing the same shooting as me who I could relate to and may be we could even look at competing for the team medals at international competitions.

So how do I see more people taking up the international disciplines? I feel that prone might be the way in. For people trying shooting for the first time you could start them doing 10m air rifle benchrest with a support whilst they learn the basics of shooting. If they started on the air rifle target then they could enter league competitions against sighted shooters from the beginning. As they get better the only thing which would need changing is the support for a sling. As they learn using the sling they could still enter the benchrest leagues and once they reach a standard where they could be considered for international competition they would be able to start shooting internationally. Standing is quite challenging and I accept fewer probably will take it up, but hopefully those capable of it would be willing to give it a go once they have had the taste of prone at international competition.

Reflection on 2019

With all my international vision impaired competitions done for 2019, it seems like a good point to review how things have gone this year an...