GLASGOW 2014 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: A facility that had lain dormant for quarter of a century is now up and running and playing a potentially vital part in Scotland’s quest for medals at the Commonwealth Games.
The 50-metre shooting range at Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh is already seen as home by many of the team, including 2010 double gold medallist Jennifer McIntosh, who is sure she has benefited from it since it opened late last year.
Scotland’s shooters won nine medals at the last Games in Delhi – the biggest haul of any single sport. On returning from India, team leader Donald McIntosh, Jennifer’s father, began the search for a range that could help the squad build on their progress.
Like our swimmers, the shooters had places to practise throughout the country, but most were 25 yards or metres – half the length of Commonwealth and Olympic venues. They needed somewhere bigger and better, and they found it in the bowels of the stadium that was built for the 1970 Games.
“It was closed on safety grounds in roughly 1990,” Donald McIntosh said. “I guess it opened in the Seventies when the centre was made. I trained here in the Eighties along with my wife, and the Scottish squad was based here.
“At that time the military was responsible for range licensing, and they did one of their regular inspections and took exception to the material used on the outer wall. They said if there was an accident, a bullet would go through the wall and disappear away up London Road. So they closed it. It was a bit of a blow for the sport.
“Move on 20-odd years, and when we came back from Delhi we were asked what could be done to go forward. One of the key things for me was an indoor, 50m training facility. So we looked here just over a year ago, and the range was really untouched. It had been home to a boxing club for some time, but between Sport Scotland and Edinburgh Leisure there was an agreement for the boxing guys to move within the facility, which suits them better, from what I understand.
“The outer wall was lined, then tested. There was quite a lot of work from a safety point of view to get the range up to spec.
“We’ve been open now for nearly three months. And it’s really good.”
The renovation was paid for by sportscotland, while Edinburgh Leisure met the cost of moving the boxing gym. Not only do the shooters now have a 50m range to practise on, they should also benefit from the greater intensity that comes from being concentrated together, according to the team leader.
“Having this is starting to build a home,” he continued. “Having a home is really important and I think you can see the benefits of it in other sports within Britain such as cycling, rowing and sailing.
“It’s another step forward in becoming more professional – as professional as we can be. When you get your athletes together the intensity is high and they work off each other. Then they scatter, and the intensity of their training potentially drops – you can’t control it or really influence it as a coach. Suddenly you’ve got them coming to a centralised venue and it’s far more effective for the coaches and the athletes.”
The winner of two golds and a bronze four years ago, Jennifer McIntosh decided to relocate to Edinburgh as a result of the range being reopened. “When I found out it was going to be built, I moved down from Aberdeen, because it’s much better than what we had there,” she said. “I train here every day: it’s been a huge help, an absolutely massive help, and I’ve noticed the impact on my shooting already. It’s great.
“The difference here is getting to shoot at the right distance. It’s 50 metres as opposed to 25 yards, which is what I was having to shoot up in Aberdeen. I can shoot indoors in the winter, which is kind of nice, with a little bit of heating.
“It’s light, it’s bright, my coach is here all the time, there are other squad people here all the time. It’s a great training environment. When I don’t have competitions I’m in here five days a week. Mornings at the range, then gym work in the afternoon.”
There are fewer events on the competition schedule this time, so emulating that Delhi total of nine medals will be tough. By reopening Meadowbank, however, Scotland’s shooters have given themselves the best possible chance of hitting that target.