Nick Tremlett discovered he was good at rifle shooting at school and has gone on to win many major competitions, as can be seen from his collection of silverware. He is also involved in coaching and, away from the range, can be found working in small animal practice.
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What attracted you to rifle shooting?
Initially, the attraction was getting out of rugby! I was always small for my age at school and anything that saved me from the primeval thuggery of the rugby pitch was going to get my vote. Of course, it helps once you start doing something and find you have an aptitude for it.
What does the sport involve?
Target rifle shooting is a very technical sport. The challenge is to keep all shots within a two foot circle at 1000 yards, which means the rifle cannot move more than 100th of an inch from the centre of aim to stand any chance of getting a bull. Although we shoot prone, the rifle is not rested, and only supported by a ‘sling’. The difficulty is then compounded by having to use a peep-hole sight and the effects of wind deflection. Once the physical technique has been mastered the big challenge is judging the wind. There have been occasions when I have been shooting in competition when the wind strength had the potential to deflect the trajectory by 20 feet; and often the variation in strength is enough to take shots from one edge of the target (10 feet wide) to the other.
The quality of the equipment and ammunition are also important. The rifles are custom made and many of us make our own ammunition. Each cartridge contains about 3 g of propellant, and a variation of 0.06 g is enough to change the point of impact at 1000 yards by about 15 inches. So, when making our own, we measure the propellant to 0.006 g!
How do you fit shooting around your veterinary work?
With some difficulty. I have to juggle being on call with various shooting commitments and family life. Inevitably, I have been unable to do as much as I would have liked. This has not stopped me from achieving many ambitions in the sport – it has just taken longer than it might have.
What do you like about coaching?
In a shooting context, coaching is not about mentoring less experienced shooters but being in a senior position in a team, primarily responsible for wind judgement. The ability of the coach to ‘read’ the wind is often the difference between winning and not being placed. This is a huge challenge in an international match, and I love that.
What do you not like?
As any serious sportsman knows, the thing you hate most is losing. Also, the weather can be a major downer to enjoyment. We shoot with no shelter, and I have shot in anything between zero and 40°C, in up to 95 per cent humidity, and frequently, in this country, in the pouring rain.
What advice would you give to someone considering participating in top-level sport?
If you have the potential to compete at the top level, I would advise anyone to do it. Even when not winning, the rewards are immense. The privilege of competing with the world's best, travelling the world and the camaraderie with other competitors makes it hugely enjoyable and satisfying. However, it requires a great deal of commitment and dedication. Over the years I have had to make various sacrifices, mainly in terms of family time, though my wife would argue it is she who has made the biggest sacrifice! The most important piece of advice I would give is to make sure you manage your time properly. It is impossible, being in veterinary practice, to compete at any level without using your time efficiently – but it is surprising how much you can do, and I am very much in the ‘work hard, play hard’ camp.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
‘Always remember to enjoy yourself.’ When you get good enough to be in contention for major competitions it is all too easy to get overly introspective, and too concerned with the outcome. These negative thoughts are destructive to performance and will inevitably lead to a sense of failure. It may be trite to say so, but it's only a game, and there is a danger of some of the best experiences in your life passing you by without you noticing.
What was your proudest moment?
Winning the Queen's Prize in 2009. This is the ‘Wimbledon’ of target shooting, and something every shooter aspires to. The Queen's takes place over three stages, with the number of competitors being whittled down from 1200 to 300 and then 100. The final takes place as the culmination of the annual national championships, attracts hundreds of spectators, and winning is a fantastic achievement.
. . . and your most embarrassing?
In the national championships a few years ago I was soundly beaten by a novice against whom I was competing, because I was shooting at the wrong target. It was only after he plucked up the courage to ask me why I kept scoring 0 that I realised!
. . . and something not many people know about you?
Many people know I have an idiosyncratic taste in ties, but what they may not know is that I make most of them myself. I now have enough to wear a different one every working day of the year without repetition!