How Olympic shooting champion Peter Wilson is inspired by Mo Farah
The gold medallist talks to Tempus about coming out of retirement to take aim at Tokyo 2020
When he retired in 2012, Olympic Double Trap champion Peter Wilson truly thought he’d hung up his guns for good, having achieved both a gold medal at the London 2012 Games and a world record title after shooting 198 out of 200 clays at the ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Tucson, Arizona. But when the International Shooting Sport Federation pulled the Double Trap discipline from the Olympic roster earlier this year, the British shooting star found himself dusting off his Holland & Holland rifle and stepping back into the stands.
With a new discipline – the Olympic Trap – to train for, Wilson says he is approaching Tokyo 2020 as a whole new chapter of his career, leaving behind his previous world class achievements to concentrate on what comes next. “I achieved everything I ever wanted to achieve in Double Trap, and now I have to reinvent myself to look forward in my career,” Wilson told Tempus. It’s a similar sentiment to fellow Olympic champion Mo Farah, who now wants to be known as Mohamed.
“As Mo said, he now wants to be referred to as Mohamed. He wants to put the past behind and focus on the future, and I’m trying to do something similar,” Wilson said. “You have to detach your brain and say, ‘What I’ve done in the past, is done. What’s next?’. I’ll be moving to Wales in October to be closer to an Olympic shooting range, where I’ll start months of rigorous training. I can’t wait to be back in the gym, fitter and healthier, stronger mentally, get that muscle memory back and hopefully qualify for Tokyo.”
Before deciding to take on the Olympic Trap, Wilson had continued his career as a coach, taking 15-year-old James Dedman to set the Junior World Record and win the ISSF Junior World Cup in Double Trap. He says, however, there was never a plan to return to competitive shooting himself.
“I never thought I’d do that. I always said that once I retired, I would stay retired, but it’s really exciting to be going for the Olympic Trap,” he said. “There are a lot of differences between the two disciplines, and I’m having a great time training. The truth is that for those of us in such a niche sport, the Olympics really are the only goal. You eat, sleep and breathe your discipline, and then when you succeed it can be difficult to think ‘okay, what’s next?’”
Wilson describes the difference between the two disciplines as both “harder and easier”. In Double Trap, competitors shoot two targets, one with the left eye within 0.23 seconds and one with the right approximately a second later. The clay targets travel around 55m from a fixed point. Olympic Trap, in contrast, features 15 possible points of launch for the clay target, which travels approximately 76m – however competitors get two shots at the target.
“It’s great. I’m really looking forward to trying my hand at it,” said Wilson. “I love to push myself and be the best that I can – that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. I think I just really want to be in the position to look in the mirror and say, I’ve done everything in my power to be the best that I can be. But there are thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of people who want to win the Olympics in your field. That gets whittled down until there are 30 of you standing at the gates, and only one of you will win. That’s really difficult.
“I trained for six years for that one moment, at home in London. In the months after you start to piece together what you’ve done, but you can’t think about it at the time. It’s only at that point that you realise what you’ve done,” Wilson said. “Coming out of retirement feels like a fresh challenge, like that cycle starting again, and I can’t be anything but excited about it. I can’t wait.”
Wilson certainly hasn’t lost his touch: at Tempus’s August shooting event at Holland and Holland’s London shooting grounds he wowed guests with a shooting demonstration where he successfully shot 20 balloons with a variety of trick shots. Now, the sportsman hopes that his continued success will help open up the world of shooting to a new audience. “I hope the Olympics does open the sport up a little and make it more accessible,” he said. “What I try and show people is that it’s a wonderful, safe, inclusive sport – and once you try it, you’ll never want to stop.”