CLYDESDALE BANK MARCH ATHLETE OF THE MONTH ANNOUNCED
18 year old Jennifer McIntosh has shown she is on target for selection for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October, following an impressive performance at the Commonwealth Shooting Federation Championships in India last month, the official test event for the Games.
She won gold in the Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions Pairs competition and backed this up with a second win in the Women’s Prone Pairs event. If that was not enough, she helped set new championship scores in both events despite still being classed as a junior.
This impressive medal haul, backed up by a full season of good results and numerous Commonwealth Games minimum consideration scores, has led her to be named as the Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month for March and she will receive £500 towards her training and competition costs. The scheme, being run by Commonwealth Games Scotland in conjunction with Clydesdale Bank as part of its programme of support to Team Scotland, is open to athletes in any of the 17 participating sports who are eligible to represent Scotland at this year’s Games in Delhi.
Winning both gold medals, Jen (as she is known) was the team’s most successful competitor and in a strong field that included India, England, Australia, New Zealand, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, it is a good indication of what might be achieved in this October’s Commonwealth Games if all goes well.
The Falkirk 18 year old (who is now based in Aberdeen), paired with Banff’s Kay Copland, to win the Women’s Three Positions Pairs gold, then partnered the 2006 double Commonwealth gold medallist from Huntly, Sheena Sharp to win the Women’s Prone Pairs.
“Winning the gold medals was almost certainly the best I’ve done compared to anything I’ve won before,” she said.
“It was pretty exciting to win the 3P with Kay. After that the biggest challenge was making sure I had calmed down before the next match.”
The Championships was the test event for the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games shooting competition and were staged at the same venue which will host the sport at the Games this October.
“Delhi was brilliant, the facilities world class, the ranges are huge and much better than anything we have here,” said Jen. “It was a good experience which will really help if I make it into the Commonwealth Games team for this October.”
McIntosh is making a habit of winning medals in India. In the 2008 Pune Commonwealth Youth Games she won the silver medal in the 3P. She admits that experience was definitely useful to acclimatising her to the conditions of the sub continent: “Pune definitely helped me get used to coping with the heat and get used to the culture.”
The Commonwealth Games shooting team is still some months away from being decided although Jen has already met the team’s qualifying criteria for both Prone and 3P. She is also hoping to qualify for the Air Rifle and has until July to produce a qualifying result.
Time is on her side in other ways too. Becoming a full time athlete for the first time this season has its advantages. Four hour training sessions at the shooting range are much easier to fit in when school work is no longer part of the equation and she has also had the time to become physically fitter and a better athlete.
“It’s been a hectic few months with all the travel to competitions and I aim to get to the range four times a week and on top of that I have my strength and conditioning training with the Grampian Area Institute of Sport,” she said.
“Six months ago I would never have got through six matches out in Delhi,” she said. “The strength and conditioning programme is specific for shooting, a combination of supervised free weights exercises, along with cardio vascular training.
“It makes a huge difference both physically and mentally. The main difference is physical at the moment but I am feeling a little bit sharper as a result. Also because I am fitter I can train for longer which makes me better at shooting.”
For Jen, taking up shooting was the most natural thing in the world, with mum Shirley a multiple Commonwealth Games medallist, and dad Donald a Commonwealth Games representative in 2002 and now the Scotland and Great Britain National Coach. She spent many hours watching them practice and compete at the shooting range.
“I remember my mum arriving back from Victoria in 1994 and putting her gold medal round my neck at the airport when I was just three and I knew then that I wanted to win one too.
“I first shot a rifle when I was 10. I would go with my parent to the range and I would get a go at the end of the session when they were finished. I then got my first air rifle when I was 14 years old.
“Quickly I knew I really liked this and started shooting really well and it escalated from there. Everybody else always thought I had real potential, especially my dad, but now I have started getting there, I am starting to believe it myself.”
Looking forward to Delhi Jen added, “My 3P is my stronger and my favourite event and my aim is to make the final and I am really looking to Glasgow 2014 for medal success. However I really want to win the women’s prone. That is the one my mum won and they are taking it out of the programme after these Games. She was the first person to win it and I would love to be the last.”
Clydesdale Bank’s support helps to ensure that athletes training and competing at this level will benefit from extra financial support to help them achieve their goals. The award scheme is a great additional incentive to the athletes as they strive to deliver top performances over the next four months to book their place on the team.