Time-Lapse St Helena: The International Island Games Gold Medal Shooter
SIMON HENRY, 45, TARGET RIFLE SHOOTER, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE | Sharon Henry
Time-Lapse is a series of short story features on the blog designed to capture segments of time, life and culture through stories told by the people of St Helena.
“I was nervous leading up to the Gotland 2017 International Island Games; preparation was intense. I had been one of the favourites in the Jersey 2015 Games to medal in the 3P (three position) Individual. I led right through to the standing position. That’s when I started to lose it on the mental side, worrying about making a mistake knowing how close I was to the medals. I lost concentration and dropped from 1st position to 4th. That hurt knowing I was physically prepared training-wise but not as mentally prepared.”
Gotland 2017, International Island Games
“For the Gotland 2017 Games I included more mental training, preparing the mind so I don’t have anxiety attacks or nervousness.
“My first medal (of Gotland 2017) was the NRSA 100 Yards Prone Rifle. That morning I didn’t feel nervous, I was actually eager to shoot. The 100 yards is not my strongest, primary event but I was shooting really well in prone (laying position) leading up to the games feeling confident and positive. When the scores came back at the end I was pleased with the result.”
A Heart Stopping Moment
“A by-product of the mental process is you don’t really get excited, because you’re focussed on other competition events. I didn’t actually see it (winning the 100 yards) as a celebration at that time.
“The next event was the Men’s 3P Pairs. We finished second but unfortunately there was only three teams competing meaning only gold (1st) was given.
“It was in my main event, the 50m 3P Small-bore Rifle Individual in which I managed to win another medal.
“Part of the qualification for the 3P Individual is a 60 shot match so the top eight go into the finals. I was shooting really well, solid. On my 59th shot I was feeling good, saw a nice sight picture, pulled the trigger, looked down at the monitor but I didn’t see anything change. For a second my heart stopped beating. I looked across to my right and there on another lane, on another target was my shot, a 9 point something! My heart dropped but then I realised that because I was shooting so well I’d still qualify. On the 60th shot I took extra care to make sure that I was lined up on my own target – and I qualified in 3rd spot.”
“Being mentally prepared does give you an advantage. During training you don’t see score as relevant, the process is. Score is the by-product of the process. So I had to mentally get my preparation right from loading the shot in the rifle, going through the sight picture and the process. Any negative thoughts like, ‘I hope this goes in the 10,’ or ‘I hope I don’t miss this shot,’ can deteriorate your score.
“I still had the Jersey 2015 demon in the back of my mind.
“During the finals there is a running commentary so you do five shots and they call out your place, everyone knows where everybody is. After the first series of five shots I was leading, it continued through the kneeling and the prone. Then it came to standing; that was when I needed to block out what happened in 2015 and just concentrate on the task in hand.
“My Dad was there and I think he was more nervous than me. But I blocked everything out; it was just me and the target. I had to redeem myself; that was my moment.”
Last Man Standing – The Sudden Death Shootout
“When you get into the finals of the standing position you actually drop down to 2 shots and then the scores are called out. So when you get to the elimination part of the finals you fire a single shot and they call scores out every two shots. Each time one person is eliminated. That is when mental training plays a big part. If you let the scores or the running commentary get to you, you can pretty much go to pieces.
“I was down to my last shot with almost 3 points separating us. At the time I felt the pressure lifting the rifle but soon as I had it lined up, the mental training took over, I dumped out all negative thoughts and just concentrated on putting in a good shot.
“I finished with a 9.7, Bjorn Ahlby from Gotland finished with an 8.1. The gold was mine.
“I was the last man standing.
“Being in the centre on the top tier of the podium for the medals ceremony is really good. As first place they play your national anthem (God Save The Queen) and it’s a really good feeling to see your flag being hoisted up and listening to your national anthem.
“I was more emotional at the medal presentation than I was when I won the competition with that last shot.”
Simon won has now won three gold medals for St Helena at International Island Games events. Bermuda 2013, 10m Air Rifle; Gotland 2017, 100 Yards Prone Small-bore Rifle; Gotland 2017, 50m 3P Small-bore Rifle. To date he is the only athlete from St Helena to have won gold at the International Island Games events.