“My goal is simple as always; to win every competition I take part in and maintain my title as world No.1.”
With just days to go until the first IPC Shooting World Cup of the season in Stoke Mandeville, Great Britain, all eyes will be on local hero Matt Skelhon as he embarks on a two year mission to achieve what he has termed the “Holy Grail” of titles.
Last July Skelhon won gold in R6 (Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1) event at the World Championships in Suhl, Germany, to add to the European crown he won in 2013. He now wants to complete a full-house of titles at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“The ‘Holy Grail’ for me is to be the reigning European, World and Paralympic champion,” said Skelhon, a gold medallist at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
“Rio is the place for me to achieve this in R6 and this is what makes the Rio Games different for me. They are the Games that give me the opportunity to achieve the biggest result available to me as an R6 shooter.”
After a successful 2014, Skelhon will start this season with a home World Cup and is looking forward to competing at the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement between 30 March and 1 April.
“Competing in front of a home crowd always means a lot, the opportunity doesn't arise very often and it’s always nice to have the extra support” said the 30-year-old who also won silver in the R3 (Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1) at the 2014 World Championships.
At last year’s World Cup in Stoke Mandeville, Skelhon won gold in the R1 (Men's 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1) event, but will not be defending his title later this month. Instead he will solely contest the R3 (Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1) event and is modest about his chances heading into the season opener.
“I think my chances are pretty good, but I have to be honest R3 isn't my strongest event anymore. Although I have had a lot of success in R3, my priority now is R6 (Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1),” he said.
With the absence of 50m events at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium, namely R6, Skelhon has had to juggle training around his pet event in which he is recognised as a world champion and Paralympic medalist.
“R6 requires more training than R3 due to the challenges posed with shooting outdoors such as wind and light etc. I have still been training R6 just as much as I was before because this is now my best event. I want to be on top of my game for World Cups later in the year.”
In 2015 IPC Shooting will stage World Cups across Europe, America and Australia and Skelhon is taking a measured and strategic approach to what lies ahead, focussing on his own performances as opposed to those of his rivals.
“This year I am taking it one World Cup at a time. Together with my coaches we’ll be making decisions on which ones to take part in order to give me the best opportunities.
“My goal is simple as always; to win every competition I take part in and maintain my title as world No.1.
“I don't really know who my biggest rivals are, I never waste any of my time watching the competition I just focus on what I am doing and have the confidence that if I am on top of my training and competing at my best, no one will beat me. My competitive edge is the confidence I have in my skills,” he said.
The first IPC Shooting World Cup of 2015 takes place in Stoke Mandeville, Great Britain, from 30 March until 1 April.