“A few years on from Rio, my attitude has changed. The aim is to medal in all three. I’m not going to make up the numbers and get experience anymore - I’m going there to win.”
Ireland’s Phil Eaglesham is aiming for his first international medal at the 2018 World Shooting Para Sport World Cup, which begins in one week (24 September) in Chateauroux, France.
The 36-year-old will compete in three events: R4 (mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2), R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2) and R9 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH2).
He did not reach any finals in May’s World Championships, but that is no excuse to lower his expectations in Chateauroux.
“I’m hoping to make the finals of all three this time, which maybe I wasn’t ready for before, but I feel I am ready now,” Eaglesham said.
“I like the new R9 event, the 50m, because it feels like what I was used to in the Marines, although this shooting is completely different,” he continued. “It’s a different ball game when you’re shooting with adrenalin, compared to trying to calm yourself down.”
Para sport a lifesaver
Eaglesham is a relative newcomer to the sport, having first competed at an international level in 2015. A former Royal Marine, he discovered shooting Para sport during a visit to the US Marine Corps Winter Warrior Trials.
“They adapted something to make it fit, and I ended up winning a medal! It took a couple of years to go back and try it again, but then I got into it, and never looked back.”
“Shooting is so adaptable, and it's been a lifesaver for me really,” he continued.
Some may recognise Eaglesham through the #philsbeard social media campaign around mental health, and his work on a new mobility device, which is currently at the prototype stage.
The hashtag #philsbeard gained momentum when he competed at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
“I wanted it to be so much more than just me, and trying to help other people, trying to show people that no matter what happens, you can be at the biggest event in the world,” Eaglesham said.
“I was trending in the top 10 on Twitter in the UK and Ireland at the event... it became something that I could build on, working with Heads Together, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, which was amazing in itself.”
“When I moved into the electric wheelchair, I really struggled with my mental health, and being in the Marines you’re always clean-shaven, and I grew a beard so that people wouldn’t recognise me,” he explained. “When people go through those dark times, everyone has some form of disguise, trying to make themselves unnoticeable. I tried to use that and make a positive thing out of what was bad at the time, and now it’s really part of who I am.”
Target Tokyo 2020
After his Paralympic debut in Rio, Eaglesham believes he has improved a lot since and can set medal goals for 2020.
“I went to Rio based on...doing something personally for me, and showing my kids that you can still go and do things,” Eaglesham said. “I probably hoped in the back of my mind that I was there for a medal, but I was never anywhere near the level that they are.”
“A few years on from Rio, my attitude has changed. The aim is to medal in all three [categories in Tokyo]. I’m not going [to competitions] to make up the numbers and get experience anymore - I’m going there to win.”