Peter Wilson, 25 is currently ranked the number one Double Trap shooter in the world, and has secured a medal quota place for Great Britain at London 2012. We managed to grab some time with Peter as he prepared for a trip to Serbia for the ISSF World Championship to find out about his shooting, his preparation for London 2012 and what he still has to do to make sure he is in the team.

ShootClay : Firstly, thank you Peter for spending some time with us, I know that you have a busy schedule and you are preparing for a trip to Serbia for the ISSF Shotgun World Championship.  Our readers will be interested to learn how you are preparing for next years games, and get some background to your shooting career. Let’s go back to the beginning – how did you start shooting and how old were you when you first broke a clay?

Peter Wilson : Well, I first broke a clay when I was about 12. We lived on a farm, so I grew up around shooting, but I wasn’t really pushed into it So, being quite keen and NOT being pushed into it made me want to try shooting even more, and I begged to be allowed to go to a Clay Shooting ground – which was Southern Counties, which is strange because it is my main base now.

SC : Did you immediately get hooked?

PW : I wouldn’t say I was immediately hooked, I didn’t decide there and then that I was going to go to the Olympics and win a Gold medal but I just enjoyed shooting. My Dad also enjoyed shooting, he wasn’t passionate about it, but we used to do a local farmers strawbaler shoot once a year out on the field and that was really where I started. It was basic stuff and I was just enjoying the day out and an afternoon with local friends and family. As I got more and more into it, I did more Sporting and FITASC – but I never really pursued that, I just enjoyed doing the local shoots and travelling further afield for bits and pieces. As I got older, I thought “right, I really want to get more into this”

SC : How did you get drawn to DT specifically? Did you shoot other disciplines?

PW : I decided at about 18 that I really wanted to have a crack at the Olympic Disciplines, and I went to  Millfield and Cheddar Valley (which is now Brookbank SG) – and I shot a little bit of Olympic Skeet, and Olympic Trap – but they never had a Double Trap layout. I desperately wanted to have a go at Double Trap so I was looking in Pull Magazine to find a place where I could do a bit of doubles, and I ended up having a crack at Nuthampstead in the winter. I didn’t really get into it, I shot half a round, didn’t get on with it. About 4 to 6 months later, I went to Bisley and had a second attempt and that is where I met Ian Coley and the national squad by sheer chance. When I bumped into them, Ian overheard me at the desk asking about Double Trap and he sidled up and said “if you are keen on having a go then come and have a round with us”. I was bit in shock and awe of all of these guys I had been reading about in the paper, but there I was, standing beside them with gun in hand.  I shot one round, and I was planning to go to Southdown to shoot a sporting the next day, but Ian pursued and said that I really had to come back the next day and shoot one of the registered events.  I did that, made the final and won the junior event, and that really was where I was hooked. I just absolutely loved it and realised this was for me.

SC : Where do you train?

PW : Southern Counties. I live about 15 minutes from the ground, so for me it is ideal. Not only is it now the best training ground in the UK, it is also the biggest and I have to pinch myself every day to remind myself how lucky I am to be so close.

SC : Who is your coach?

PW : Ahmed Al Makhtoum (Olympic Gold Medallist for Double Trap in 2004 in Athens).

SC : Is he pushing you hard for London 2012?

PW : Big time! The whole idea was to go for the Olympics, I am not doing this for anything other than the Olympics. I don’t do it for World Cups or World Championships – they are all fantastic competitions, and they are great stepping stones to the end goal  – but the absolute goal is to win the Olympic Games. I set myself up to do that, and that is still my goal today – obviously, it is very difficult to do that but if you don’t aim high, you are never going to achieve what you set out to do.

SC : You secured your Gold Medal in Maribor with a fantastic score of 195 – can you tell us a little bit about your shooting in Slovenia – what do you recall from the final, which we were liveblogging on ShootClay, it looked a close run affair.

PW : I knew when I arrived that scores would be massive – and shooting official practice the scores were across the board huge – so I knew that come the competition it would be very tough.  Obviously going into the final on a 146 meant that it would be tight, I didn’t actually think I would go into the final in first (maybe in third or fourth) – and knowing that there was only two targets between first and last it was mega-tight!  As it always is in these top level events, in all the disciplines.  So, I just enjoyed it, I’m a fairly relaxed sort of person and I went in and did everything as I was supposed to do and it just came together at the right time. I remember that it was very hot, there were no covers on that range – most of the ranges have shade, and hopefully a little breeze, However this range was set up for the television cameras, and they like to have no covers at all  – which is a great idea, but it was really hot. It was probably the hottest I have ever been in my life, you don’t get the feel for that on the ISSF TV –  but standing on the peg with vest, cartridges, hat etc – it was really warm!

SC : What does your qualification for London 2012 mean for your preparations now? How has your run-up been so far?

PW : At the moment – my name is NOT down for the Olympic Games, there is still a selection procedure to go through. So in the eyes of the ISSF I may have won my place, but for GB your name is penciled in and then you have to justify that you are in the top two in the country to go and compete for your medal. At the moment both Richard (Faulds) and myself have won places, and no-one has managed to match that – and Richard has gone on to win a Silver at the Europeans and a Gold earlier in the year, and I have won Gold and a Silver. We still have to prove that we are up to the task and we’re both very much looking forward to it.

SC : Which competitions will see you competing in as we run-up to London?

PW : I’m off to Serbia on Tuesday, then back for a selection shoot at Southern Counties – which is our last of the year. Then we’ll fly out to Al-Ain in the UAE for the World Cup Final. I’m really looking forward to that, as I train a lot in Dubai – it will be really exciting.

SC : How do you feel that the shooting sports are being represented at London 2012? Have you seen anything of the venue being built at Woolwich?

PW : Everyone is really excited, once the debate died down about Woolwich vs Bisley, it was clear that Woolwich will be a fantastic venue. We’ll be shooting in the heart of London, in the middle of the Olympics – watched by many more people than we would have been who otherwise would never have had the opportunity to watch shooting. That will be phenomenal to start with, there is a great buzz. There has been some negative media over the years about shooting, but I hope that this will turn (those perceptions) around and show people that we as a sport are extremely safe. I don’t think a lot of people realize this and I hope this will be able to change people’s views. I think we’ll be able to get a lot of positive perception out there for the general public.

SC : How do you usually prepare for a big competition?

PW : I’m fairly relaxed, I don’t tend to stick to one routine or scheduled, I know what works for me in a loose way. I do tend to taper my training down, I train a lot as it is, so when I am running up to a competition I try to peak at the right time. I try to ensure I will be at my best in 10 days or 2 weeks time. So for me, it is all about trying to prepare for that one day in time.  I’m currently tapering down my training just to get right, I need to be hungry and desperate for it just as I compete.

SC : Will you be in a training camp for London 2012?

PW : I haven’t really looked into it yet. I’m focused on getting this year out of the way and then I’ll focus on next year. I imagine that yes, we’ll be in a training camp but I have no idea where we will be.

SC : Can you give our readers some insight into the British Team for 2012? How are morale and expectations?

PW : I spend a lot of time with the team, morale is very high and everyone is very excited. London 2012 couldn’t have come at a better time for Great Britain, I can’t speak for the pistol and rifle guys, but for the Shotgun we have got some incredibly talented and dedicated people and I really have high hopes for London, across the board. Obviously for myself, but for everyone else in the team as well.

SC : A lot of ShootClay readers are interested in the kit you use – can you tell us about your set-up, and which sponsors look after you?

PW : My gun is a Perazzi MX2005  – high rib version with a customized Nill Griffe anatomical stock which is cut to my hand and grip in Germany. I just got that over the winter and it is phenomenal, I never realized how good it would be until I got one!   I would love to say it’s a standard gun, but it’s not – I spend a lot of time, effort and money on my gun to make sure it is EXACTLY as I want it. I shoot RC Cartridges at the moment, and I have just changed vest to a customized GT International from Australia. For my eyes I use Pilla Hi-Def glasses.

The most important thing I am doing is looking at the process of developing my own Cartridge called EONN for London 2012  – in conjunction with Ahmed Al Maktoum and George Young from Proper Cartridges, we are working on something quite revolutionary. Currently they will not be for sale but I have been testing them for the last 4 months, and they are very exciting.

SC : Do you have a pre-shot routine? How do you stay focused for a full round of Double Trap?

PW : As with all the other disciplines, Double Trap is 90% mental. I’m a bit funny, in that I have gone the other way – I used to be incredibly into the sports psychology but I have completely come back from that and become completely focused on technique and my shooting. I tend to be fairly relaxed about it, I am a perfectionist so I sometimes tend to get a little TOO caught up in perfecting what I am doing, so I have only ever shot 150ex150 ONCE, in training. It is very difficult to do that again and again, so you have to accept sometimes that you will miss. I have tried to make my routine and mental preparation for a competition as fluid and relaxed as possible, so I don’t get too caught up in what I am doing – and I stay simple and easy.

Equally I have found, as you go abroad and compete internationally, LOADS of things can go wrong – your gun can be lost, your cartridges may not turn up, you can lose all your clothing or someone can forget to tell you something and you miss your first squad. There are so many things that can happen, and I think if you have too much of an emphasis on your mental routine then you end up getting worried by those things. I aim to keep it simple, keep it basic and try not to get too flustered.

SC : Do you have any superstitions?

PW : Not really, I’m pretty relaxed and I try not to get too fussed about things. I suppose I am a bit of a fidget, jumping from one side or the other on the peg – not sure if that keeps my mind active or not, maybe I’m just mad!

SC : Finally – one last question – if you could choose your ideal shooting squad (dead or alive), who would you choose to compete against and with?

PW: Difficult to pick a whole squad – but one person, I would pick my grandfather – on my Dads side – I never had the opportunity to meet him or shoot with him, but I heard he was a really keen shot. I’ve always thought it was possible that my shooting drive and ambition, and maybe my ability, came from him. I would have loved the opportunity to shoot with him. Although, he didn’t shoot any clays – so I’m not sure how that would have worked out!

Peter – thanks again for talking to ShootClay, we’ll be right behind you as you represent British Shooting at London 2012. We wish you good luck, and hope we’ll speak again during your journey!