Shooting is under pressure in England, says Olympic champion Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson was distraught when the Southern Counties shooting centre in Dorset—one of the oldest shotgun ranges in England—was closed down four years ago. It was here that Wilson had put in hours of practice, shooting down clay pigeon targets, to eventually win a gold medal in double trap at the 2012 London Olympics.
The range, spread across 42 acres with 450 fully automatic traps, was the official training range for the London Olympics. The reason for its closure was environmental pollution. Neighbouring farmers had complained about lead pellets from the range landing in the field and contaminating the crops.
The range at Wilson’s home county is just one of many, spread across Britain and also other parts of Europe, that has been closed in recent years for environmental reasons.
The 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games organising committee’s decision to exclude shooting—a move that has drawn the ire of India—may not be directly connected to the decline of shooting in Britain, but Wilson says the sport definitely is “under huge pressure in England”.
“You have to stay on the 55 decibels. If you go over, they close it down,” Wilson says. “It’s a concern. The saving grace for a lot of ranges is if they are near motor ways, then the constant noise from the motorway drowns out the noise of the shooting ground.”
There aren’t many of them (big ranges) anyways, so we cannot afford to lose anymore. It’s a big problem. Olympic shooting is under pressure in my country for that reason.”
Mid Wales Shooting Centre is expected to close down next year due to ‘noise pollution’ campaign.
“It’s very difficult to say how many ranges have been shut down because they come and go quite regularly, whether it is for noise or for some other reason, but they are under extreme pressure,” Wilson says.
Wilson, however, doesn’t think that the popularity of the sport or a funds crunch are the reasons behind shooting’s exclusion from Birmingham Games.
“It was shocking for everyone to hear about it. I don’t think funds and infrastructure are issues as people are passionate about the sport. It could be due to sports and politics. The anti-gun policy could be one the reasons,” he says.
In the United Kingdom, like in most of Europe, more people take up shotgun shooting rather than air rifles or pistols.
Indian sports administrators and Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Louise Martin recently discussed the issue of shooting’s exclusion from the 2022 Games at a meeting held here in the Capital, but there has been no change. The Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra said he is hopeful that shooting at the 2022 CWG could become a reality.
“In reality shooting isn’t happening in 2022 Games this time,” says Wilson. “The biggest fear for me at the moment is that since shooting is an optional event, once it’s out of the CWG, it might not feature again.”
India has also threatened to pull out of Birmingham Games in case the event is not included.
The Olympic champion says if a boycott does happen, the impact on the future of the CWG will be huge.
“If a large nation like India pull out, it could damage the reputation of the host nation as well as jeopardize the future of CWG.”
Wilson, who is here as a brand ambassador of Promatic, a company that deals in shotgun equipment, has been witnessing the ongoing shotgun national championships at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges. He applauded the performance of young Indian shooters and feels India have the potential to become a powerhouse in the sport.
“The opportunity India have is amazing, they are right at the start of journey and you could dominate Olympic shooting for years because you have in part the knowledge, in part the infrastructure and in part the legislation.”
Wilson who has now shifted to trap since double trap is not a part of the Olympic programme anymore, says that India is just a few steps away from this dominance.
“India need more shooting ranges, more coaches and need to nurture their own coaches,” he says. “You have the hunger, the talent, and it’s about nurturing it. India is already proficient in rifle and pistol and shotgun is just the next piece of the puzzle.”