Fall behind?? No chance.

Week Four: Tuesday March 30 – Thursday April 1

I had a short break before the next shooting camp as we had a week off anyway and I missed camp three due to other commitments.

This gave me a chance to evaluate how I was doing and where I could improve. Technically I’m not afraid to say, I’m pretty good, bordering on different gravy but mentally I’m terrible.

Zero temperament, zero calmness and zero sportsmanship. As much as I’d like to think I could set a new trend – I don’t think these are the hallmarks of GB’s next set of gold medallists in 2012.

Arriving on time once again for camp four, I knew that I was going to have to show that I have a bit more about me after the gun-biting antics of the previous camp.

The rest had also had an extra week on me so I knew I had to make up some ground, especially as Steve had hit a personal best of 565 while I was away.

Fortunately for me, the first day saw us given a lecture about breathing and psychological training – all of which will be vital if I was going to control myself on the range.

In training I had my body positioning right, I was getting into a routine of preparing myself for a shoot and ensuring that my equipment was set up identically every time.

I was feeling good until I realised that the next day we’d have two full 60-shot competitions, each with an Olympic 10-shot final afterwards. Time to produce and the rest had already done this three times the previous week.

I was pretty nervous when I woke up on the second day, but unsurprisingly it was not to do with shooting. No chance.

At 4pm I was off to London to watch Arsenal’s Champions League match with Barcelona. Get a couple of shoots done, don’t get the hump, hit some good scores and go to the Arsenal. Done.

Everyone was listening to music in the lead up to the shoot but I’d left my I-Pod in the car and couldn’t be bothered to go and get it. I’ll psyche myself up.

Sadly I quickly found out that this was a bad idea and I was shooting 8s instead of 10s. The target was laughing at me once again and the joke was firmly on me.

I looked round at the scores people around me were getting which is an absolute no-no in competitions. But it actually made me feel better that they seemed to be doing about the same as me.

I know it’s childish, but I don’t care. I don’t want to lose and if everyone else is doing as bad as me then I’m going to be pleased.

I had my coach Louise loading the gun for me. She’s not really allowed to give advice during a competition but I did keep hearing her say ‘breathe’.

I was getting the hump and we both knew that was only going to lead to a bad score and some sort of ‘toys out the pram’ reaction.

The breathing actually worked. But I felt like a bit of a plum closing my eyes and telling myself that no matter how bad it was looking in front of me, I just had to get through it and hope for better after.

It reminded me of the first time I’d done something else.

I ended up shooting a 555 which all told was a credible score. I finished well and in fact was quite pleased with myself. I finished second to Steve which all told was expected.

I didn’t shoot particularly well in the final though. I’d done the hard bit and didn’t have the concentration necessary.

After lunch it was straight into another competition. Things were getting serious now.

I prepared well and despite dropping a few silly shots I went and nailed a 565. Personal best and equalled best score in only my second shoot.

That’s what I’m talking about. I’m here to be number one and it felt good. People were concerned because I’d missed a week. I wasn’t and within a few hours of my second day I’d showed exactly why.

I walked around for a while like I was the absolute nuts. But suddenly my thoughts turned elsewhere. It’s 3pm, off to the Emirates in a bit. This is massive.

As a result my 10-shot final score was poor and that scumbag Steve had gone and hit 10 straight 10s. Back down to earth. I was still number one in my eyes though.

The Arsenal match was draining. Two nil down and coming back to 2-2. I’d witnessed the best half-hour of football from any team in my lifetime and it wasn’t from my side.

So the Arsenal hadn’t been thrashed and I’d hit a personal best. It was a minor miracle. But I felt good going into the final morning and another 60-shot competition.

That feeling was quick to disappear when I woke up at 7am having had about six hours sleep. Great preparation for a shoot – nice one.

Needless to say you probably don’t need me to explain to you what happened in the competition.

At one point I turned to Louise shortly after deciding not to take a shot and said “I can see blue lines in front of me”. This wasn’t good, I was shattered.

I managed to shoot 554 despite all that. Despite being tired and missing a week, I’d managed to get the most consistent set of scores.

More than enough reason to be pleased but in hindsight I wouldn’t be going to a football match the night before a competition shoot again.

Above all that I’d sort of go hold of myself mentally. Well apart from being told off for calling the target a pretty nasty swear word after I’d hit a 10 to recover from a bad previous shot.

Why am I swearing at a piece of card? This shooting sends you west but I’m getting closer.

2012 is still far away, not just in terms of actual time. But after this camp I feel I’m a little bit closer.

Until next time. Adios.

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Try to find a happy place………

Week Two: Wednesday March 10 – Friday March 12

I was quite looking forward to getting down to the second camp and despite getting up late once again I somehow managed to make it down south on time.

Like every athlete I made sure I had consumed the right nutrition before the camp and the 6.30am in-car breakfast of cookies and diet coke ensured that I was in the right physical state.

After an initial theory session it was straight onto the range and I could see the improvement from my first week immediately.

In the next three months I have to get 585 three times to qualify for the GB squad. So from my 60 shots, basically I have to hit 10 almost every time.

It sounds hard – mainly because it is – and the slightest movement can leave you with a frustrating nine or eight. There’s little margin for error put it that way.

I started well, hitting a lot more 10s, but nowhere near as many as what I’d have to if Olympic standard is to be reached. But I was encouraged.

Shooting is all about precision and in order to create the perfect seated position I found myself taking measurements of everything such as the distance of each chair leg to the rifle.

This is tedious work, but it’s the difference between gold medals and 20th place and I know which I’d prefer.
I work better in a competitive environment so, like the previous week, fellow rifle shooter Steve and I made sure we had a competition on the first day.

I got revenge for the previous week but although it’s good to win, we’re in it to drive each other on. If I have to settle for silver in London, I’d much rather Steve had gold round his neck.

Unlike some of the other people at the camp, I had my own room and I was pleased I did not have to share. I haven’t shared a room since I was 12 so I don’t fancy starting again now.

It was also pleasing to see as well that none of the problems that had affected me in the first camp did this time.
I felt a lot more comfortable and focused on what I was there for. This is a good opportunity for me and I’m not keen to waste it so this time I decided to grow a pair, man up and get on with it.

Everyone is under intense pressure at these camps – from athletes to coaches and support staff and it really started to show on day two.

We’re all desperate to make this work and it’s going to be unbelievably difficult. To teach amateur shooters to basically become Olympic standard in three months is a massive ask.

I’m not writing this blog to criticise and I’ll probably get in trouble if I do, but the situation was not helped by an unruly theory session in the morning.

Some of us walked or wheeled out, some stayed, but it began to feel that perhaps we weren’t getting the support we need to make this happen.

There was a little bit of bitching and to be honest it did my head in. I suppose if you’re thrown into this close-knit, pressure situation with people you’ve never met it’s bound to happen but I wasn’t a fan. It’s like being in Big Brother except without the occasional decent bird, Z-list fame or money.

Either way, I began to get frustrated at the fact my progress was stalling and it did not help that I was relying on equipment that is not perfect for my needs.

To really give this a real go I probably need my own gun, jacket and a special visor which has a specially fitted lens so I don’t have to wear glasses or contact lenses when I shoot.

This is quite important as it allows me to focus on the target better – but all this will probably cost at least £1500 so I’m having to make do with what I have.

It’s a catch-22 because it is hard to get funding when you’re not actually in the squad but you need to equipment to have a better chance.

In my final competition shoot on the second day the pressure had got to me and even though I actually shot well, I really couldn’t be bothered with it so decided to storm out and head for the gym.

But like an idiot I’d forgotten my gym bag which was still in the range. So rather than ruin my dramatic exit by returning to get my bag, I just decided to sit in the car for a while like a proper adult.

In the evening me and Steve decided to escape the camp and get back to the real word, which involved sitting in a pub in Aylesbury for a little bit.

I’ve been to some strange places up north, but there were a few ‘similar-looking’ people in the pub we went to. Either way, it did us good to get out and take a step back from it all.

It’s hard not to get let the shooting get to you, and as I have the maturity of a 14-year-old, I struggle. That showed on the final day’s competition and I got frustrated everytime I didn’t hit a good score.

I’m the only one shooting and it’s down to me to hit that poxy little circle, but everytime I saw my card with any shots below 10 I got more and more annoyed.

We’re taught to take ourselves to a happy place, a quiet zone, where we can relax and mentally recover for each shot.
I’ve certainly not mastered this and it was almost like the target on the card was a little face laughing at me.

At one point after taking a shot I decided to bite the gun which was stupid for several reasons. Not only did I look like a complete idiot, but as it’s wood I also hurt my mouth and it tasted bloody horrible. I’d had my sweaty palms on it for three days so why I thought it was a good idea, I do not know.

The funny thing was at the end of it, I’d shot the score me and Steve had set as a benchmark at the start. I’d done well and performed above expectations really, but it’s hard not to be pessimistic when there is a lot at stake.

It’s going to be difficult and I really do not want to finish this three months and be told ‘well done, you had a go but didn’t quite make it’.

No chance, I want to do this.

Thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed the first blog, and if you didn’t, I have no idea why you’ve come back for more and endured another load of it! Guess the joke is on you!

I’m back shooting on Tuesday March 30 and hopefully I’ll manage to avoid eating the equipment.

Anyway, until next time.
Adios.

Week Two Photos

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Win gold for Ramsey!

Week One: Monday March 1 – Wednesday March 3

I woke up at 5.30am to get down to Buckinghamshire for the 10am start but somehow it took me and hour to get out the flat and I was already battling against time.

I drove down the M1 half asleep and with the songs from Glee blaring out in the background I felt like I’d taken some sort of fruity drugs.

I’m never on time but rocking up to Stoke Mandeville Stadium half an hour late was hardly the way to announce to the coaching staff that I was ready to become an ‘elite athlete’.

But I was there and fairly excited to see what was ahead of me. I certainly wasn’t nervous. Even though I had no idea what was ahead for the week, it didn’t really bother me that much.

The structure of each day was basically going to be a theory session in the morning, range time, lunch, more range time, dinner, then more range time.

We were quickly out onto the range and I was hoping to continue the progress I’d made in the previous trial.

It didn’t quite work out like that, mainly due to an inability to hit the target in the middle – which is quite important and the fact my back was killing me.

I later found out that was because I was leaning over my rifle like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and once that was sorted I began to shoot better.

Lunch gave me an opportunity to meet the rest of my team-mates. Including myself, there were four rifle shooters and three pistol. They’re all good people which is just as well because I’m going to suddenly be spending a lot of time with them and animosity plus a room full of guns would not make for a nice mix.

You need to concentrate 110% to be a successful shooter, but I kept thinking of other things, mainly Arsenal.

I couldn’t believe Aaron Ramsey had broken his leg the Saturday before following another ‘debatable’ tackle to say the least.

But I was proud to see us respond and win and anything is possible this season now. I’m excited, I’m thinking bout it more than the shooting even thought I shouldn’t.

Day One came and went pretty quickly but as soon as we’d wrapped up for the day I felt depressed, I felt unsure, something which rarely happens to me. I went to my room feeling very low and it was not a nice feeling.

I suppose for this blog to be a true account of my experience I need to be honest, and honestly I’ve never really lived in a ‘disabled world’ and to be suddenly thrust into it, albeit at the top end is hard.

I wasn’t brought up in that world, I have lived my life up until this point like most other people. I don’t think about my restrictions too much, mainly because I don’t need to.

However, suddenly I’m thrust into this world and it’s difficult mentally for me. I was very tearful Monday night and thought about just jacking it in and doing one back to Leeds and getting smashed.

This isn’t about my team-mates, who are all great people, just about me. Who knows why I can go out and give it the big one on a lads holiday in Croatia without a second thought but when I’m given the opportunity to train for a potential place in the Paralympics, I go to pieces.

As with anything like this you can’t deal with it on your own so I spoke to my girlfriend Helen on Monday night and despite feeling slightly better for it, I was still unsettled. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate being unsettled more than anything.

Tuesday I was still a bit depressed and the fact that I woke up in a hotel room that resembled a cross between a prison cell and a hospital room didn’t help.

Can’t complain though it is free and I’m there to train not spend a night in the Hilton. Still, think I’ll take some pictures or something down there next time.

I let my coach Louise know how I was feeling and was surprised at how much better I felt for it. She knows everything there is to know about rifle shooting and understood my problems so it helped.

We have access to a Psychologist in a few weeks so think I’ll be talking more about it then. Haven’t done anything like that before really. For a laugh I might bring a load of pictures I’ve drawn of me killing people and ask what they mean. Only joking, I won’t do that.

Perhaps there are some sort of issues that need to be dealt with and perhaps doing this shooting is the right way to go about it. Who knows.

Plus I’d have looked like a complete fanny if I’d jacked it in after a day so course I stayed. The funny thing is that I managed to block those worries out my mind during the actual training. My mind was on shooting/Arsenal. I’m going to win gold for Ramsey.

I saw marked improvement on my second day and started to enjoy myself with my team-mates a lot more. It was still hard for me mentally but a session in the gym that evening sorted me out and a series of good results on Football Manager meant I was a lot happier.

Shooting is all about precision and on the third day I could not find any real consistency in my positioning I saw the results in the shots I’d taken.

Despite this I still gave it the big one and before leaving on the Wednesday decided to have a 20-shot competition with my mate Steve who is in the same classification as me.

That was a bad idea as I rushed a lot of my shots and got beaten. I bloody hate losing but he’s a good guy and I felt sorry for him because he was a Brummy so didn’t begrudge him it. I thought about it all the way home though, so perhaps the shooting means more to me than I thought.

I want to do well and this week I will be doing my homework on nutrition and a development plan to help me improve. I’m back again next Wednesday and looking forward to seeing how I do. There is no doubt I will have to concentrate a lot more.

So until next week.

Adios.

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Welcome to the Road to 2012!

Alright everyone.

I’m Alex Brooker as many of you will know and two months ago I began a journey which I hope will end up with a gold medal or at least not finishing last in the 2012 Paralympics in London.

It’s been pretty straightforward to this point. I attended a Talent ID day at the end of January hoping to be spotted for the Table Tennis. Turns out I’m crap at that soooooooooo they didn’t want me. It’s table tennis’ loss, for the record I’d have cleaned up in my category.

But turns out I’m a bit nifty with an air rifle in my hand (who knew!) and I got invited back for a second trial for Shooting in February. I pulled out a bit of a performance there and now I’m on a three-month intensive training scheme designed to get me up to scratch for competitions and the GB squad. I’ll be training three days a week each week, then have a week off, and so on and so forth, until I rack up 27 days of training.

I’d never even thought about shooting or London 2012 until a month ago so to be suddenly thrown into this big life change is daunting to say the least.

But what is clear is that in three months I need to get a minimum qualifying score (MQS) three times in order to be eligible to selection for the GB squad. This is what it’s all about.

While at the moment I’m still not sure where this will take me, there is no way I’m preparing to fail. I didn’t even tell that many people about the shooting in case I looked a plum if it didn’t happen. As I’m now broadcasting my weekly activities on the internet I suppose it’s a bit late for that.

So this is my blog, hope u enjoy reading it!

 

 

 

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