“Obviously, there’s only one medal people want. And that’s the one I want. It’s gold.”
When Deanna Coates and Matt Skelhon leave Great Britain this week for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Shooting World Cup in the USA, it will be all business.
Both will be trying to earn points toward quota places for the British Shooting team at next year’s Paralympic Games.
The World Cup, held in Fort Benning, Georgia, from 5-9 October, will be the second to last qualifier event, with the final qualifying event for shooters coming in November at Australia’s IPC Shooting World Cup.
Coates has competed in every Paralympic Games since 1984, winning seven medals in the process – including three golds – that are all in frames back home.
She insists, however, that the level of competition on the shooting range at London 2012 qualifiers is well above what it was back in 1984. In fact, she went as far as saying she does not feel as if she is competing in a sport for athletes with an impairment anymore.
“Obviously, there’s only one medal people want. And that’s the one I want. It’s gold,” Coates said. “But it could be anybody’s.”
Skelhon, who won gold at the Beijing 2008 Games just three years after losing the use of his legs following a car accident, echoed her sentiments.
“It’s always changing at the top,” he said. “There’s always so many people there,” noting that six of eight finalists at last year’s World Championships shot a perfect 600 in the final round.
Both Coates and Skelhon head to the USA at the top of some of their events in the official world rankings.
Coates is tied for the world’s No. 1 in the women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 event with Slovakia’s Veronika Vadovicova and China’s Cuiping Zhang. SH1 is for competitors who do not require a shooting stand.
Coates said lately she has been taking part in more aerobic, swimming and stretching exercises to train rather than just having “bang, bang, bang” practice sessions at the range.
Skelhon is tied for first in the world rankings in the men’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 and the mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1.
Since winning gold at Beijing in the mixed prone event, he has purchased a new air rifle and has been training at his team camp at Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury.
“I fancied a change, and I thought I’d give it a go, and it fit me,” Skelhon said of his new gun.
He has also worked with a psychologist outside of the range, being that the sport has a large mental component to it.
“For me, if my mind starts to wander, I just focus on my basics,” Skelhon said. “I just go back to my breathing and things like that.”
While Skelhon is not trying to overlook the qualifying competitions, he said he cannot help but be excited for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and potential experiences in the athlete village.
And he already hinted that if he qualifies, he will bring back his distinctive red mohawk for London 2012.