Sat, Aug 04, 2012 - Page 19 News List

London 2012 Olympics: From glass collector to gold medalist

Reuters, LONDON

As he collected dirty glasses in his local pub, Britain’s Peter Wilson contemplated giving up shooting, but coaching sessions with Dubai royalty have left the former farm hand now only picking up an Olympic gold medal.

The 25-year-old was in disbelief on Thursday as he won the men’s double trap title in front of a huge crowd at the Royal Artillery Barracks in southeast London, reminiscing about his roller-coaster journey to the top.

Crowned English, UK and European junior champion in 2006, greatness was expected from the Dorset man, but after a lean spell his funding was cut, meaning family handouts and odd jobs were required to support his career.

“That really is a tough point,” Wilson told reporters. “If you are trying to be an elite athlete and you have no one helping you financially, it is a really, really tough place to be, and you do contemplate giving up and there are lots of things you think about. I started working in a pub to try and cover my costs, and it really wasn’t possible. Late nights and early morning just destroys your shooting.”

Wilson went to the Beijing Games in 2008, but not to compete. There he bumped into Athens 2004 double trap gold medalist and a member of Dubai’s ruling family, Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher Al Maktoum.

The two knew each other well from competing at tournaments and Wilson asked Al Maktoum if he would consider coaching him. The royal agreed and announced his retirement from the sport after competing in China.

“I was fortunate to get back with Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum and get back to a level where I was back on the funding program, and from there it has been an incredible journey and I have had an amazing four years, and to come up with an Olympic gold is just an amazing feeling,” Wilson said.

“[Every] February I go out to Dubai for a month and that is an opportunity to bulk train. I go out to see Ahmed and get a chance to shoot a huge amount of targets,” the Brit added, stressing he has never received any financial support from his mentor.

The hard work began to pay off this year when Wilson scored a world record at a World Cup event in Tuscon, Arizona, as he ditched his job as a farm hand driving tractors for his parents to concentrate on his Olympic ambitions.

He led throughout the final on Thursday and survived a wobble in the 21st round when he missed both targets to seal victory and Britain’s first Olympic gold in the sport for 12 years.

Not bad for the cricket and squash enthusiast, who only fell into shooting when he injured his shoulder snowboarding and could not compete in his first two loves.

“I loved shooting, but I loved cricket and I loved squash. That snowboarding accident really did stop most things for me,” he said. “I was no good at chess and no good at tiddlywinks, so sitting down and playing any of those was no good, so I ended up shooting one handed at school and that was probably, yeah, pretty fortunate. If it wasn’t for that accident I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

“My journey to this point here has been pretty lucky, I suppose. I’ve just about made it at every opportunity and capitalized on all the luck I have got,” he said.

While the funding is back and the gold medal sits around his neck, money remains an issue.

“I’d love to try and set up a business around shooting that helps me and funds me as I go through, and I’d love to be able to keep shooting, but you don’t get paid a great deal,” he said. “As fortunate as I am to get funding, you really don’t get a lot and there isn’t a massive amount in shooting.”

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