GB Paralympic shooter Skelhon targets European gold

By Brennan NichollsBBC Sport
Skelhon aiming for gold at IPC Shooting Championships

Former Paralympic shooting champion Matt Skelhon goes into next week's European Championships in Spain believing his biggest rival is himself.

The Briton has won two of three World Cup events this year and set world records in Turkey and Stoke Mandeville.

"I know as long as I can shoot how I shoot in training, that's good enough," the 28-year-old told BBC Sport.

"My biggest enemy is just myself, keeping my head on the game, if I can do that no one is going to beat me."

The 2008 Paralympic champion added: "It's going to be a massive field, a really good competition. If anything it will probably be bigger than the Paralympics in terms of how many good shooters there are there."

This year's European Championships, which start in Alicante on Monday, are the first since 2007.

Shooters from Africa and Oceania are also taking part as they have no regional competitions to compete in, and a total of 170 competitors from 34 nations are due to feature.

At London 2012 Skelhon managed a personal best in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone but had to settle for silver as Cedric Fevre of France shot a world record to claim gold, before the Briton won an unexpected bronze in the Mixed 50m Air Rifle Prone SH1 event.

It was a disappointment after his success in the 10m Air Rifle Prone in Beijing four years earlier where Skelhon, sporting a red Mohican haircut, claimed a famous victory which has helped secure the sport's funding.

The win came only a couple of years after taking up the sport after he was left paralysed by a car accident.

"Obviously I went to London to win and I didn't win," he said. "I'm happy to have come away with two medals, but I still wish I'd won that gold medal. I think every athlete who has got a silver or bronze will feel like that."

Since the London Paralympics there has been a major change in the sport's scoring. The top eight in qualifying still progress to the final, but their scores are no longer carried with them, making the final a straight shoot-out.

Scoring is now measured in decimal points, with a perfect 10 now measured between 10.0 and 10.9, meaning the maximum score available now is 654.

That gives the Briton, who shot a new world best of 634.7 in Stoke Mandeville in July, a new challenge.

"I've been shooting using the decimal scores for quite a while now, before the system came out," he explains. "Shooting 600 [the previous best available score] all the time you still need a way of getting golds and improving your score so it's pretty good for me."

Away from the range, Skelhon, a self-confessed perfectionist, has found a fresh way to switch off.

Before London 2012 his hobby was remote controlled helicopters and cars but he has now gone back to fishing.

"The shooting and the training can get fairly stressful with a lot of intense work going on so its nice to go and relax," he said.

"The fishing is a little bit like the shooting, a little bit technical and there's a few different gadgets you can buy to help you catch a fish.

"My grandad used to take me fishing years and years ago, I've loved it ever since. There's an adrenalin rush when you get big old carp on the end. I've not had a blank yet!"

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