The Commonwealth Games is arguably the absolute pinnacle of both team and individual target rifle shooting. As long range Target Rifle is not an olympic discipline, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships are the two biggest events in our sport and both take place on a four year cycle. The World Championships is competed for by large teams from Great Britain. This of course represents the highest level of team shooting. However in the World Championships, competitors are still able to specialise with dedicated shooters and coaches who must work seamlessly together in a large group.
The Commonwealth Games however, is an entirely different and more intimate affair. With only a team of two competitors and a manager, the two team members must be both excellent firers and wind coaches. As they both coach each other they must have absolute trust in each others decisions and abilities. As well as coaching each other in the event, the pair will spend a huge amount of time together both in training for many months and throughout the games itself. It is therefore a necessity that the pair are able to get along well, tolerate each others habits, foibles and understand each other.
The Competition Format
The Commonwealth Games consists of a pairs event in which the two team members both shoot while coaching each other. As well as an individual event where they must compete independently. In the pairs each firer completes a 2 & 10 at each of 300, 500 and 600 yards followed by a 2 & 15 at 900 and 1000 yards (colloquially known as a Queens II & III course of fire) with a maximum possible score of 600.60v. While in the Individual each firer completes a 2 & 7 at 300, 500 and 600 yards (Queens I) as well as another Queens II & III with a maximum possible score of 405.51v.
The Selection process
The ultimate responsibility for who is able to represent England at the Commonwealth Games for all sports lays with Commonwealth Games England (CGE) who need to be satisfied that anyone selected has realistic potential of winning a medal. CGE seek a recommendation for who is selected for all shooting disciplines represented at the games from the English Target Shooting Federation (ETSF). The ETSF in turn seek a recommendation for the 2 individuals chosen for the full bore events from The English Twenty Club.
England are only allowed to select two shooters for the full bore events, therefore the two selected for the pairs event must necessarily compete in the individual event. Understandably therefore, due to the nature of the match and the importance ofteam work between the chosen pair, the selection process focuses primarily on the pairs event with the expectation that those considered able to compete for medals in the pairs will also be capable of being competitive in the individual event. So far this policy has been very successful for England with medals being won in both the pairs and individualevents at the last 3 Commonwealth Games.
The English Twenty Club have appointed a selection committee who formulate the selection policy, select the initial training squad, plan and organise the squads training and ultimately choose the final pair which they recommend for selection to the English XX Club Council. The current committee are Nick Hinchliffe QC SB, Simon Belither GC2 SM and John Bloomfield GM2 SC. They are highly experienced at international level over many years and have a strong understanding of what is required to succeed at this level of competition.
Training Squad and Final Selection
Initially the selection committee choose a training squad of 4 or more individuals that show potential to be part of the final pairing. Selection for this initial squad is based upon outstanding individual performance with a criteria of having been placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in any of HM the Queens Prize, the NRA Grand Aggregate or the British Open Target Rifle Championships during the 4 years immediately prior to the games. Meeting this criteria in itself doesn’t necessarily garnet selection for the squad and anybody winning a medal at the previous Commonwealth Games will also be considered.
The chosen squad under go a series of dedicated training weekends which focus mainly on the pairs event but also aims to improve individual shooting skills and create an overall team atmosphere of support towards the overall goals of securing medals for England in both events. Often the training squad may take part in smaller practice competitions over the same format as the Games individual event against the Channel Islands and other Home Nation teams. In past years the squad have also attended the South African National Championships in Bloemfontein as part of their training.
Selection of the final pair usually occurs around 1 year prior to the games in order for them to focus on training together and attend the Commonwealth Shooting Federation (CSF) Championships held at the same venue as the games. Selection for the final pairing is based upon performance as part of the squad but also requires some amount of subjective analysis as the committee need to make a judgement as to how well the final pair will interact with each other and effect each others performance.
Applications and Appeals
The formal selection policy for the England Commonwealth Games full bore events as agreed by the council of the English Twenty Club can be downloaded below. Any individual may apply for consideration as part of the initial training squad provided they have met the criteria outlined above and in the policy. However meeting these criteria alone does not guarantee selection. Any person directly affected and concerned by the decision of the selection committee regarding either their selection for the training squad or for the final pairing may make an appeal to the Executive Committee of the English Twenty Club.