Tucked deep within the vaults of Edinburgh’s decaying Meadowbank Stadium, locked away from unwitting intruders, is located Jen McIntosh’s personal safe house. A shooting range has been constructed where the 24-year-old can fine-tune a craft in which fractions of a millimetre separate great from mere good and where five-hour exercises in accuracy and concentration examine both mind and body.
Rio 2016 is the primary target. Five times a Commonwealth medallist, the Scot has officially been given the green light to aim at next summer’s Olympic Games after being confirmed yesterday among a six-strong British squad, pre-selected for the 50m 3 Positions event among a line-up that also includes Stranraer-based Tim Kneale and World Cup champions Steve Scott and Amber Hill.
Day after day of trigger-happy practice, she trusts, can help deliver huge advances from London 2012 where her best placing was 36th. “I think I’ve made very substantial progress over the last year,” McIntosh claims. “I changed my kit at the start of the year and it’s made a massive difference.” Such tinkering is always a gamble but the sense is that it has paid off. “Luckily, the equipment just clicked for me and I was able to go with it straight away and get improvements from day one.”
Wise counsel and honest feedback is forever close at hand. Sister Seonaid, a promising markswoman, will harbour eventual Olympic ambitions of her own. And while mother Shirley – formerly a prize- laden international – is foremost a cheerleader for her kin, father Donald is coach to both sisters and an active figure in plotting their advance.
Theirs is a relationship, part-personal, part-professional, that has subtly evolved. “When I started shooting, we couldn’t work together,” the elder sibling laughs. “The last couple of years, I’ve taken more ownership of my programme and he’s been great in doing that.”
Donald, once trained by his own father before later competing for Scotland at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, has ably nursed the next generation of the family business. “He can motivate me in ways I don’t think other coaches could,” Jen affirms. “But he’s also helping me to grow as a person and athlete which is great. I wouldn’t swap that for the world.”
Perhaps for the entire galaxy though. As well as being an all-round gunner, McIntosh confesses, with no trace of embarrassment, to be a “complete geek”. Adventures in parallel universes may be enjoyable escapism. However, such is her beguilement by the craft of creating cinematic illusion, she is training as a make-up artist with designs on sculpting monsters and aliens out of paints and clay.
“It’s something I’ve always been fascinated with,” she affirms. “I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction films and that’s where the interest comes from. In an ideal world, I’d love to be working on special effects on movies or TV but juggling that with shooting at this point might not be realistic. But working on something like Star Wars would be amazing.”
Rio will be an epic, she trusts, and also a tranquil haven compared to the frenzy of London three years ago or the Glasgow 2014 outpost of Barry Buddon. Distractions, at both Games, were easy to find. The thunderous din at the Olympics, where she was the first Briton in action, was unforgettable but also wholly unsettling at a moment when absolute focus was wholly required.
“I don’t think anything will be as scary as those experiences,” she reflects. “The fact Rio is a bit more removed from home will help me knuckle down and get on with it.”