World Field Target Championships

All good things begin with a road trip!

It seemed like such a good idea at the time. After a nightmare of a trip to Italy last year – partially because I couldn’t carry all of the gear I needed, and partially down to the difficult, unhelpful and downright rude Italian police at the airport - I had no intention of putting myself though the wringer this year. Despite the 1,724 miles it would ultimately take to get there, we decided to take my new Great Wall Steed on an epic road trip worthy of the World Championships!

Our journey took in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark and then a four-hour ferry across to Norway. Some 30 hours and several gallons of coffee later, we emerged through the mountains to a picturesque Isfjorden and one of the most spectacular settings imaginable to fight it out for the biggest prize in airgunning.

Despite initial concerns over capacity, just 111 shooters made the start whistle of the championships. This was a somewhat disappointing turnout given all the pre-event hype, and it was exacerbated by the entire Russian Team of 28 shooters withdrawing, thus preventing others from potentially taking part. This is one bit of the process that needs addressing for 2013.

However, those who made it were in for a treat. I’m fortunate to have been to some pretty awesome places on my travels, but I have to say that Isfjorden pretty much blew me away. Breathtaking scenery and dramatic landscapes gave the championship a fitting backdrop. Steeped in legend and history, there was almost too much to do when you weren’t shooting! That said, it was also one of the most relaxed and welcoming atmospheres I’ve experienced in major international competition. Andy Kays and his small team had worked tirelessly to pull the event together, and it showed – both in the quality of the course and their tired faces!

Day One

Andy’s master plan was to start off with a relatively easy first day, then progress the difficulty as the championship progressed. There were grumbles of discord among some of the competitors who thought a number of clear rounds would be posted due to the simplicity of the course. However, looks can be deceptive and there were more than a few ashen faces around the course as the day went on.

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It was the first time I’d felt nervous at a competition for a long time. Maybe it was the lengthy interval since my last competition, or perhaps just the feeling that I hadn’t put enough time into my preparation. Either way it was too late to worry as I approached lane 18 to kick off our Championship attempt. Despite this initial uneasiness, I started off strongly, clearing my first seven lanes with no problem. However, then came a slightly wobbly period where the wheels almost fell off! I missed both targets on Lane One followed by two more in quick succession.

I pulled myself together missing just two more targets - a long kneeling shot and one stander before making a massive schoolboy error. I’d ranged a full size 35-yard target and dialled in the range, only to accidentally touch off the trigger as I pulled onto the target. This resulted in a big, fat zero and an overall score of 43 ex 50 for the day. The course was hard enough without throwing silly targets away.

I wasn’t the only one squandering targets. Welshman Simon Evans was clear right up until the last lane, when a temporary lapse of concentration meant he forgot to reposition his butt hook before a standing shot, resulting in his only miss of the day, but strong performances in from Andrew Gillott, Dan Eley, Hennie Breytenbach and Dario Gusmeroli – all on 48 – meant it was tight at the top.

Day two carried with it the threat of rain and wind, but as it happened, it developed into a beautiful sunny morning. I was feeling pretty chipper after a relatively strong performance on day one and immediately relaxed into ‘the zone’. I missed a few targets early on, but held my nerve to post a creditable 45 ex 50 and leap up the table into the mid-20s. Day two also saw some familiar faces moving back into contention.

A score of 48 from Andrew Gillott launched him into first place, with 2012 Grand Prix Champion John Costello, and 2004 World Champion Dan Eley trailing by just two points. Top US shot Greg Sauve also posted a 48, but he still had a lot of ground to make up after his 41 on day one. The big story of day two was the performance of the ladies. Portugal’s Ana Pereira shot a phenomenal 47 ex 50 and 102 overall – just four points off the lead with South Africa’s Natalie Terblanche just one point behind.

Many of the star performers on day one had fallen by the wayside. Tricky wind, difficult angles and equipment malfunctions had all been blamed, but there was more to come. Andy predicted a horrific thunderstorm heading our way! The course was also deceptively difficult, meaning every target needed your full attention. There was certainly no room for complacency.

The final day of the championship saw six names in contention for the crown, but with the adverse weather forecast and the ever-increasing difficulty of the course, anything was possible. A torrential downpour preceded the start of our round, but after just an hour the sun was blazing once more. All Andy Gillott had to do was hold his nerve to be sure of attaining the sport’s ultimate prize. My day could not have started any worse! I misdialled my range on the first target and missed three more soon after, due to a lack of concentration. However, I pulled myself together and knuckled down to the task at hand, eventually posting a creditable 43 ex 50 – which was enough to take 20th place.

The real battle was unfolding further down the course as both Eley and Evans finished strongly on 47 apiece, but it wasn’t enough to shake the resolve of Andy Gillott, who held his nerve right to the very last target, punching the air in delight as the last one fell. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for John Costello who dropped a target late on, to fall into the clutches of Simon Evans and go on to lose the 3rd place shoot off.

The ladies didn’t fare quite so well on the final day, with both Ana and Natalie posting 39s. The performance of the day came from Lyndeen Calvert with a phenomenal 43 ex 50 to secure 3rd place. A stronger score on day two would have seen Lyndeen in contention for the title. It was also great to see an increase in the number of spring gun competitors – including a whole family from Canada! Spain’s Roberto Caballero took top honours with an impressive 123, a full three shots clear of the field.

England continued their dominance of the team event, posting an incredible 562 – their highest ever score ex-600 – with a commanding 30 point lead over 2nd place South Africa, who just held off a resurgent Germany just 5 points behind. The world wonders if there will ever be another name on the team trophy!

The 2012 Championship marked the end of an era as World Field Target Federation President Johan Jansen stepped down from his role and retired from international competition. On behalf of FT shooters from around the world, I would like to extend our thanks for his tireless dedication and commitment to the sport. We’re all incredibly grateful for the time and energy he has invested in building Field Target internationally and the sport has flourished during his tenure.

Next year sees the World Championships return to Ebern, Germany from August 29th to September 1st 2013. Demand for places is expected to be high so be sure to get your applications in early.

Be sure to check out for a series of videos featuring reports and action from the 2012 World Field Target Championships.