AS someone unaccustomed to missing her target, shooter Shona Marshall was devastated to lose out on the chance to compete at the London Olympics.
The Scot had hoped to round off her sporting career with an Olympic appearance followed by a final bow on home turf, at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. But things didn’t go as planned and, having been pipped for the GB vest, she was relieved to be one of the latest athletes selected for the Scotland team for next year’s Games, which she insists will be her last major competition.
“I was very close [to the 2012 GB team]. I was absolutely devastated when that didn’t happen but then moved on because Glasgow was in the background. I had achieved qualifying standard but lost out in selection procedure and they went for the girl who had been in Beijing. I like to think it was a very tight decision but I don’t like to talk about it.”
But, despite such intense feelings of hurt, anger and disappointment it wasn’t her shotgun she turned to in a bid to let off some steam. Instead, she retreated to the kitchen. “I think I went and kneaded some bread,” she laughs.
She did eventually decide to still travel south as a spectator. “And it was a super venue. It worked really well. I was glad I went to see it. I would have regretted not going but, yes, it was difficult. It was one of those things I had to do and it has made me stronger.”
That added mental strength bodes well for her appearance at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre near Carnoustie, where the Commonwealth Games medals will be contested. In Delhi in 2010, she won silver in the clay target trap event and, although the standard of competition will again be high, she is desperate to add a gold.
And, while the silver is on display at Marshall’s farm in Alford, Aberdeenshire, she has put off framing that prize, holding out in the hope that she will have another, even more precious bauble to show off alongside it.
“Having won the silver in Delhi, I definitely want to go one better in Glasgow. It is world class level against Australia, India, Canada and the other home nations: it’s a very tough competition. It is nine months away but this really focuses it. [Early selection means] I can target my preparations for next year. There will be World Cups for GB over the next few months but my priority is the Commonwealth Games. Some domestic events that count for selection might coincide with a Grand Prix abroad, where it’s better weather and I feel I’m getting better level of competition, so I can now make that choice and that might be more useful.”
Marshall was one of those who ensured that shooting was Scotland’s most successful sport in Delhi, with nine medals in total. She trains full-time in her purpose-built trap on the farm, combining that with a couple of strength and conditioning sessions every week. She says the home advantage and familiarity with Scottish weather conditions could help the team equal or even better 2010’s haul.
“Having a home advantage is really important. Even though we won’t have that much access to Barry Buddon beforehand, we won’t have travel issues, we know the weather, the people. There are some disadvantages to being removed from the main activities in Glasgow but, from a weather perspective, it could be a bit drier, being on the East coast, but it will be a windy venue which might cause problems for some. I’m used to shooting in wind so hopefully I can use that to my advantage.”
Marshall is in her second spell in the sport she took up as an 18-year-old. She took a sabbatical to have her two children but was bitten by the bug again after watching the last Commonwealth Games to be staged in Britain.
“There was a lot of publicity around Charlotte Kerwood winning her gold at Manchester at 16 and I thought: ‘Oh, maybe now is the time to give it a go again.’
“I didn’t really expect to get back to this level but, as soon as I took the gun out again, that was me hooked, absolutely. That’s why I’m never going to take up golf! I set Melbourne as my target and qualified for that and I was disappointed to just miss out on the final there when I came seventh but then I worked towards Delhi. That would be the highlight so far. It is always nice winning stuff for Scotland. Even when I’m in a GB vest, I’m still the Scot there and that’s important to me.”
But, despite her early selection for Glasgow, there will be no resting on laurels.
“Typically, in December, January, February, I will be shooting for about four hours from home, dotting in and out to warm up, and then I’ve also got a couple of strength and conditioning sessions a week and aerobic conditioning to do as well. It’s a bit of a muscle memory thing, you need high volume when doing that technical training and then when you approach the competition phase you will ease back and build in a lot more of the mental side of things. I try to do 150 to 200 targets a day.”
Although Marshall sold all her cattle around five years ago to focus on her sport full-time, she says the wildlife have always had faith in her ability to hit the right targets.
“The cattle were not bothered at all and even now, I have roe deer come out into the field when I’m shooting. They are quite used to it and feel quite safe.”