I received the invite email on Thursday 9th October which was right on the eve of a personal anniversary that always leaves me feeling upset and down. I got up early that morning to go swimming but as always I checked my emails to see if there was anything important that I had to deal with that day. I was not expecting to get through to the next stage of Target Tokyo due to my gender Identity (IOC rules prohibit transsexuals from competing in any sport until two years after surgery) and the fact that I am a club shooter. When I read the email I had to refrain from shouting with joy (it was 6am!!!) and dancing around the room.
Two weeks before the trials I put out a press release to the local media about what I was doing so see if I could get some publicity (that way I could show that I was able to get publicity for myself) and maybe sponsorship. At least two sources picked up the story and ran it, Kent Sports news which is an internet based company and my local paper the Sevenoaks Chronicle. I did an interview with the Chronicle and they sent round a photographer for a photo-shoot. If I get to an Olympic Games as an athlete (I still find it hard to call myself an athlete) I will be the second person from my village and employee of Brands Hatch to become an Olympian. The other person is Olympic gold medallist from Sochi, Lizzy Yarnold.
We had to be at Bisley (which is 60 miles from where I live) by 8am to sign on. So after a light breakfast and a cup of tea we set off at 6:30 to face the dreaded M25. For a change it was behaving and we arrived at the Lord Roberts Centre about an hour later. Before going in to the Centre I checked my messages that I had on my phone (it had been going crazy on the drive to Bisley) and all of them were good luck messages from friends and colleagues.
My group’s first exercise was at the semi outdoor range next to the small bore rifle range. We had 30 minutes to complete the exercise. It was split into three sections the first part was on a standard sized blank target at 10 meters. The idea was to see how well you could group with no aiming point. The next target was a black line about an inch wide and the idea was to get all of your pellets into the black line in as small as group as possible and the third target was a standard 10 meter target and again the aim was grouping. In fact this was the aim of the whole day, it was grouping and coachability that was the aim not high scores. The first part of our group did their exercises and then it was my turn. By this time I was a bag of nerves but as soon as I got onto the firing line a strange calmness came over me and I did my exercises in 5 pellet batches and timed myself to give me 10 minutes on each exercise. At the end of my exercises I was happy with my groupings. After we had finished the coach asked me to stay behind. ‘Here we go I thought’, but he asked some to get a LP2 match pistol for the lady to have a go on. I realised that he was talking about me so I waited while the pistol was brought to the range and aired up. On a blank target I was asked to repeat Exercise 1 with the Steyr LP2 Match Pistol using the Olympic one handed stance. This really put me on the spot as I was now using a strange pistol that wasn’t zeroed or set up for me and the grip shelf was way too high for my hand to fit in comfortably but within a few pellets I was getting a nice tight group of about ½ to ¾ inch. The coach said not to worry about my age as shooting is not an age related sport and that I could still get to the Olympics if I was in my 70’s. I was also asked if I was willing to switch to the full Olympic 10 meter discipline if I was selected to go further to which I answered yes of course.
The last stage was aimed to see how we could shoot under pressure with a simulated 20 shot match in 30 minutes i.e. an Olympic Final simulation. We were allowed 20 minutes to sight in but as we had been shooting for an hour on the neighbouring range in identical conditions I just shot 5 pellets mainly o save air as my air bottle developed a leak at the filling handle when I tried to fill my pistol so I hoped that I had enough air in the gun for 20 shots.
I re-joined Glynn in the reception area. Unfortunately he couldn’t get any photographs of the event as only Target Tokyo staff and the shooters were allowed into the range area and there was no spectator facilities. Since I was gagging for a brew and something to eat we made our way nearby Box Hill and Rikers cafe for a hot dog, coffee and relax before hitting the magic roundabout home. When I got home I had to prepare my pistols for another 4 matches (I won both the HFT matches and came 3rd in the and 4th in the Metal Plates matches) the next day plus make sure my medals and beret were ready for the Remembrance Act I was leading at my gun club.
On 19th November I got the results of the day and I was told that I hadn’t been selected for the next phase. Yes I am disappointed and upset but that is sport. This is not the end of my Olympic dream by any stretch of the imagination. I am a determined girl and I am determined to represent Great Britain in shooting. It might not be in air pistol as I am taking up clay pigeon shooting in the New Year and currently getting my Shotgun Certificate. I am only 43 so there is still 4 or 5 Olympics in which I could compete in and I do aim to be in one of them and make history as the first openly transgender Olympian and medallist in shooting.