Tokyo Olympics: Shooter Seonaid McIntosh follows in family footsteps

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Seonaid McIntosh
Seonaid McIntosh is following in the footsteps of her mother, father and elder sister as an elite rifle shooter
Olympic Games on the BBC
Hosts: Tokyo, Japan Dates: 23 July-8 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; Listen on BBC Radio 5 live, Sports Extra and Sounds; live text and video clips on BBC Sport website and app.

Seonaid McIntosh had little interest in joining the family business - the business of competing at the sharp end of international shooting - until the 2012 London Olympics.

There, she watched first-hand as big sister Jen graced the grandest stage of all. Jen was an accomplished elite performer by then, a winner of two Commonwealth gold medals to which she added in the years that followed.

Mother Shirley and father Donald both represented Scotland with distinction in the Commonwealth Games. Donald also coached his older daughter and led the national performance programme.

"Seeing what it was that my sister actually did, getting a feel for it internationally, made me think it was way more interesting than I'd given it credit for," McIntosh Jnr told BBC Scotland.

From that moment on, she was hopelessly bitten by the shooting bug.

McIntosh, now 25, chose to dispense with the hedonistic elements of adolescence and early adulthood. She dedicated herself utterly to sporting excellence.

Five years after watching Jen at London, Seonaid was a European champion. Then a world champion. Then a Commonwealth medallist, a World Cup winner and a world champion again. Then world number one, a position she still occupies.

She studied engineering at Edinburgh University and is now pursuing a masters in performance psychology. And she is now an Olympian herself at Tokyo 2020 and has a strong chance of appearing on the podium.

"There is stuff you have to give up, but it's choices," she said before travelling to Japan. "I don't have a social life and never really had one. I didn't do the whole student experience, but I don't feel like I've missed out - I've got to do this instead, so I don't regret it.

"I'd love to come back with a medal. Especially with Covid, the expectations are so varied now and some people haven't even been able to train - the Europeans last month were my first event in 18 months."

'I couldn't do it without my dad'

Through it all, Donald has been by her side. As his daughter's coach, he has had the unique privilege of travelling to Tokyo with her.

"I couldn't do it without my dad," she says. "He is probably cringing listening to me. I think he's the best coach, but having him there as my dad means any fears and worries he can give me a big hug if I need it."

It is remarkable that one family should produce such towering prowess in a single sport, that Donald should help two daughters become Olympic athletes.

"In reflecting on it, part of it is just normal because that's what we do and have done for years," he says. "But now I'm in a situation where not just one but my second daughter is going to an Olympic Games - you just wonder how that happened.

"I did look down during one of the Commonwealth finals on the Gold Coast and check my pulse rate - it was 130bpm sitting on a chair doing nothing. That's not really very good for you, is it?"

McIntosh struggled in the 10m air rifle, but goes in the 3x50m - considered her strongest event - on Saturday.

"There will be eight finalists in each," says her father. "There are at least double that number of women who could win it - who have the technical capability and pedigree - and it's going to be down to what happens on the day.

"It's a bit like golf - one day you're a winner; the next, you can't hit the fairway."

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