Pressure is off for Europeans-bound McIntosh18 February 2016
Scotland’s top shooter, Jen McIntosh, will arrive in Hungary for the European 10m Championships next week with the pressure on just about every other competitor.
The competition is the final selection event for this summer’s Rio Games. But the Edinburgh College Makeup Artistry student has already earned her spot in Team GB having qualified in the 50m 3 positions at the 2015 European 50m Championships.
“I’m looking forward to the Europeans and, as the last qualifier for the Olympics, it will be a high priority event for a lot of other shooters,” said five-times Commonwealth Games medallist.
“It will be nice to go into the competition relaxed and let everybody else stress about their qualification.”
Last month McIntosh broke the British 10m air rifle record at the ISSF IWK in Munich. Historically, air rifle has been her weaker event, so she is pleased to make ground and admits it will be a hard act to follow.
But follow she must and, having made her Olympic debut in London four years ago, she feels she will be a more accomplished competitor second time around.
“I’m immeasurably better than I was in London,” said the 24-year-old. “I was pretty green back then, whereas now I have a better understanding of how I operate. I’m more in control and that lends itself to performing better in high pressure situations.
“When you get to this point you’re looking for 0.1 better per shot, so it’s the tiny things that add up to making a big difference.
“The biggest difference is the mental application so one of the things that is key going forwards is finding that state where you are focussed and working hard, but not trying so hard that you force it.”
Joining Jen in Hungary next week is teenage sister, Seonaid. The Heriot-Watt University Mechanical Engineering student has moved into the international scene and set a British junior record at the ISSF IWK in Munich.
“From a sister's point of view it’s great to see Seonaid doing really well, and from an athlete's point of view it’s good to have someone pushing you forward,” said Jen.
“For a while it’s been just me on my own and I haven’t had much competition within GB. But she is part of a group of girls that are improving rapidly.”
The McIntosh sisters are amongst 147 students supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes. Through the programme they receive funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.
Seventeen Scottish universities and 14 colleges form the Winning Students network. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.
“Studying is positive distraction and having something other than shooting is good for my sanity, as much as anything,” admitted Jen.
“You get caught up in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and how huge they are but having college reminds you there is a life outside and keeps things in perspective.
“College are very supportive and give me the time off I need and the support to help me keep up with things and work at things in advance.
“It’s an expensive sport and the Winning Students support makes a big difference. I’ve just bought a new rifle and the support of Winning Students was a massive help.”