One year on
It was one year ago that Pellpax committed to the sponsorship of Olivia Hill from Marsham, Norfolk. For the past year, Pellpax has contributed financial assistance to this talented young shooter, facilitating a full training programme and attendance at national and international competitions.
For 17-year-old Olivia, these past 12 months have been a time of exhilarating success, bitter disappointment, and, above all, rigorous hard work.
Olivia, a member of the Norfolk County team, the National Scout Rifle Squad, the GB Rifle Talent Squad, and the England Rifle Academy, took up precision air rifle target shooting in 2016, and this bright, ambitious A-level student has quickly become one of the UK’s shining stars of the sport.
In February 2018, Olivia travelled to The Hague, Holland, for the famous Intershoot event – her first international competition – and in the spring of that year, she competed in the British Open Airgun Championships and the English Championships, both at the Bisley National Shooting Centre.
Did anyone pack the insect repellent …?
The summer of 2018 began well for Olivia, when she achieved 1st place in the Junior Cup and in Ladies’ Class C and Class D at the Norfolk Open in June – her first small-bore competition.
A couple of months later, in August, Olivia survived a turbulent Junior International at the Lord Roberts Centre, Bisley.
On Day One, Olivia was plagued by a fly that kept settling on the end of her rifle; nevertheless, the young Pellpax star qualified in first place. However, later that day, during the final, Olivia found that she was unable to move her sights, as the stalk on the lens holder was too long, preventing any movement. Olivia remembers the incident vividly.
“After the final that evening, Tony Clarke, from Zero Point ESU [Explorer Scout Unit], who was with us, ordered an angle grinder from Screwfix. He picked it up at 7 a.m. the next day, as soon as the store opened, drove back with it, dismantled the lens holder and sights, made the stalk shorter, and put it all back together again. I had just enough time to squeeze in a quick warm-up before being called to the line at 8.30!”
The manic start to the day unsettled Olivia. After knocking her pellets onto the ground, she came off the range to restock and to get her head back in the game. Olivia regained her composure and took Bronze in the Grand Prix and Silver in the team event.
Personal Bests just keep getting better
In October, Olivia won Silvers in 10m Precision Air Rifle and Small-Bore (under 18s) at the 42nd Scout National Championships at Bisley. Shortly after that, in November, she gave a fantastic performance at the Welsh Open, which was held at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.
Day One of the Welsh Open saw Olivia qualify with a new competition personal best, and go on to take Silver in the final. Olivia also reached the final on Day Two, and again on Day Three, when she smashed her previous PB in the qualifying stage. There was more cause for celebration when Olivia and her two team mates took Gold in the team competition.
The Surrey Open at Bisley, in December, was a combined meet – a tough competition for junior shooters, who must compete alongside, and against, seniors. On both days of the competition, Olivia earned herself a place in the finals by achieving a position within the top eight in the qualifying rounds.
Later in the month, after an excellent performance at the Norfolk Winter Open, Olivia competed alongside other GB Rifle Talent Squad members at the RIAC in Luxembourg. The RIAC is an annual international event organised by FLTAS (Fédération Luxembourgeoise de Tir aux Armes Sportives). Olivia’s matches went well, including her first ever mixed pairs match with team mate Tom Warren.
And what was the best bit about Luxembourg at Christmas time?
“Fantastic hot chocolate!”
Intershoot, The Hague, Holland
The well-known and extremely popular Intershoot event has been held annually (with the exception of just one year) since 1977. Keen to offer his pupils the opportunity of shooting at international level, the Dutch coach, Stek Geerts, organised this competition in conjunction with friends from abroad. Now, more than 40 years on, the event still embraces the spirit of fun and inclusiveness.
The British team travelled en masse to the event. The party comprised 13 GB Rifle Talent Squad members, two members of the England Rifle Academy Squad, and three coaches.
“There was brilliant team spirit,” Olivia said, “with everyone supporting each other.”
Although Olivia’s matches didn’t go quite as well as she had hoped, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“It was such a great feeling to be shooting with, and against, some of the best shooters in the world. I made some friends from other countries … and I tried my first chicken schnitzel!”
Even better than chicken schnitzel (I think) – the GB Talent Squad Junior Ladies won Silver in the team event. The photograph shows Olivia (centre) with her team mates, Emily Bale (left) and Phoebe Taylor (right), on the podium.
Olivia told me, “This was my first international medal. Hopefully more to come!”
What’s next for Olivia?
Later this month – 22nd to 24th February – Olivia will be competing in the British Championships at the Lord Roberts Centre, Bisley.
And after that, there’ll be more competitions and more training. Each time Olivia aims her rifle at the target, she’s taking another step closer to where she wants to be.
“My next goal is to become a British Shooting Academy athlete. And further down the line, I’d like to represent my country and compete in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.”
It’s been a busy year for Olivia.
“I’d like to say a massive ‘thank you’ to all the Great Britain Rifle Talent Squad coaches for their guidance and support throughout the year and at the competitions, those at my local ranges, North Walsham RPC and Norwich City Target Club, who offer daily support, and Tony Clarke, with Zero Point ESU. And I’d also like to thank Pellpax for their ongoing support.”