Amber Hill: Sixteen-year-old British shotgun superstar

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Olympic sports reporter
Hill, 16, is shotgun record-breaker

Stuck for a gift for your daughter's birthday? Why not try a shotgun?

It worked for Amber Hill.

The Berkshire 16-year-old's turquoise painted nails lightly grip an Italian gun customised with her initials, and it has changed her life.

Hill holds the world record for the youngest-ever winner of a senior World Cup in her sport, and is now gunning for more at this year's World Championship in Peru. Her compulsion to customise the gun, rare among top competitors, is one of the few signs she is still a teenager.

"I was at a party and everyone was talking about what they were doing next year," says Hill during a training session at a range near High Wycombe.

"People were saying they would go to sixth form, college, stuff like that. I said, 'shoot for GB.' Taking up shooting has changed my life."

It could have been hockey, which Hill played at county level. It could have been gymnastics, ice skating or netball, all sports she played for years. But with her grandfather's help, Hill has become a shotgun prodigy in the sport of Olympic skeet.

"When we first started, we used to go out at the weekend and have a bet on it," says grandad Bill Rogers, who introduced Hill to shooting as a nine-year-old.

"I'd say, '£50 if you beat me.' It was never happening. Then I went out one afternoon and she took £150 off me - after that, bets were off."

Hill has only recently turned 16. Much of her staggering recent success came at the age of 15, including winning a senior World Cup - unheard of for a competitor so young.

"It's massive. It's so difficult to compete in a senior category and win," Olympic shotgun champion Peter Wilson recently told BBC Sport.

"Everyone in the shooting community is thrilled and also stunned by her performances, She is a phenomenal performer under pressure. We are all really excited by her progress."

Wilson's journey to Lima for this week's World Championship but Hill has now reached a level where she has the opportunity to reshape her sport's public profile in a lasting and meaningful way.

"Shooting has been very male-dominated," says her mum Joanne, who knew nothing of the elite sport until Amber progressed under her grandfather's supervision.

"If they can see Amber, a young, up-and-coming girl doing it, I think maybe it would bring more girls into the sport and hopefully they can build from that.

"Amber has only been doing this particular discipline for the last year and, within a year, she's already got to number one in Britain, number four in Europe and sixth in the world.

"I feel like she's still Amber, a normal child at the end of the day, but we've been to places we've never dreamed of going. Acapulco, Dubai, Italy, Cyprus, Finland - what an experience at her age."

And as shooting relies more on mental aptitude and discipline under pressure than athletic performance at your physical prime, Hill could theoretically have decades left in her sport.

"I feel like I can make a living out of shooting," she says. "It's something I love and I'm going to take that opportunity - do it as best I can, get as far as I can.

"The women I shoot against are normally in their 20s or 30s. They're quite a bit older than me, but I have nothing to prove because of my age. I'm young, I'm up-and-coming, I'm going to go and do my best. Age doesn't come into it, it's on ability and how you do on the day.

"Rio [2016 Olympics] is my aim. I went to London 2012 and it was the most amazing experience - the scale of it. I knew from then, that was exactly what I wanted to do. I just hope it happens."

Her grandfather has made the trip to this week's Worlds and will be filing reports back home to Bracknell, where Amber's mum will be nervously waiting for news alongside her son and the family dog.

"I just enjoying watching her," he says. "I sit there and live every shoot. I'm standing there thinking, 'Shoot it! Shoot it!' The old stomach's churning.

"I think she can go to the top - but being her grandfather, I would. She's just a natural shot. The first time she picked up the gun, I could see she could shoot. But you've also got to have the package - the discipline, the general attitude, and the will to win, to say you're not interested in second or third.

"It's the same as motor racing: you don't remember who came second or third but you do remember Michael Schumacher.

"Seeing what she's done in the past year with her titles, her gold medals and everything, I very much hope they'll remember Amber."