Shona Marshall is one of Scotland's top female shooters who is gunning to compete on home soil next year in what would be her third Commonwealth Games, following her individual silver medal success in Delhi.
Marshall competes in the Women's Olympic Trap which is one of the events in the Clay Target discipline of the sport. The 49 year-old mother of two grown-up children started shooting at the age of 18, introduced to the sport by her ex-husband.
Having been into a variety of sports competitively at school, it was a natural progression for Shona to then compete in clay target shooting. By 1990 she decided to "retire" from shooting to look after her children and develop a farming business. However, inspired by the success of female shooters in the Manchester Games back in 2002, Shona set her sights on glory of her own and has never looked back since.
Team Scotland caught up with Shona ahead of her trip to Germany for the European Championships to find out how her preparations and life on the farm are going.
Q: You have just returned from the World Cup in Granada, Spain; tell us how the event went for you?
SM: I have shot in Granada before so I was familiar with the range and the temperatures were very hot. Unfortunately, after a good day of shooting on the training day, I wasn't able to carry that through to the competition phase. There were plenty of positive parts to take from my performance through into the European Championships. I have been to Suhl (in Germany) twice before so I know what to expect at the range. My main goal is to continue perfecting my routine so that I make as few mistakes as possible, which in turn means I will break more targets.
Q: You said you were inspired by the Manchester Commonwealth Games, what were the next steps for you to reach your current level?
SM: I worked hard to qualify for the Melbourne Games in 2006 which was a great experience. Living on a farm meant that I was able to install three traps to train on at home instead of travelling two and a half hours to the nearest range for me at Glenmoriston. From there I've gone on to win several Silver and Bronze team medals for Great Britain at European and World Championships. My biggest accolade to date though would be winning Silver for Scotland in Delhi 2010.
Q: How do you juggle work with training?
SM: I still run my farm but made the decision to sell my pedigree herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle a few years ago so I could train full time. I am now involved with the running of Glenmoriston Shooting Ground which takes up quite a bit of time but I am committed to reinstating the ground as the premier trap range in Scotland, if not the UK. I now split my training between home and Glenmoriston.
Q: Tell us about your experience in Delhi where you brought home your silver medal?
SM: Delhi was a fantastic experience. My team-mate (Linda Pearson) and I narrowly missed out on a medal in the pairs competition and I didn't want to go home empty-handed. In my individual event, my second round was not what I'd hoped for but knew there was still a chance to make the final. I made it through a shoot-off to qualify! I was delighted and decided to just relax and enjoy the final. It worked - I shot a personal best and pushed Anita North from England (who took Gold) all the way. She stood up to the pressure and I took the Silver medal. I couldn't be disappointed as I know I performed well and the whole experience of the Games was truly awe-inspiring.
Q: What are your expectations for Glasgow?
SM: I am aiming for Gold in Glasgow. I will do my very best to perform at the highest level and if I can do that then I have a real chance of winning a medal. Shooting as a sport generally receives little or no media coverage so the Games are a great opportunity to showcase the depth of talent shooting has in Scotland across all the disciplines.
I am looking forward to letting friends and family see exactly what it is I travel around the world doing! It is important to me to do well and help publicise my sport and hopefully encourage others to take part!
Q: What do you need to do to ensure your place in Team Scotland?
SM: I have to achieve three scores with an average of 68 (the score needed to make the final in Delhi) which I have already done so I really hope I will be nominated as part of the Team. It is important though that I keep working hard and achieve good results in the upcoming major competitions, gaining as much experience as I can at a top level so I can be fully prepared for Glasgow, should I get the chance to compete there.
Q: Who are your main rivals to look out for in Glasgow?
SM: At the world level, most of the European nations are strong contenders, as are the USA. On the Commonwealth stage, Australia has some strong youngsters coming through who are doing well on the world circuit. England will also be strong but I maintain that my biggest rival is always myself.
Q: What's next for you after the Europeans in Germany?
SM: Having won the last two Great Britain selection shoots, I have been selected for the World Championships in Lima, Peru in September. There is also a home international at my home club in August. Being in the middle of the season, I am doing a limited amount of very specific training in order to stay fresh for competing.
I plan to take some time off in October and November to rest and plan my campaign for Glasgow. There should be some warm weather training over the winter somewhere and early competition in Qatar in February. If I am selected for Team GB there are World Cups in USA, Brazil and Kazakhstan in March and April. On top of that there will be continued strength and conditioning work to ensure my body is fit to cope with the amount of shooting and travelling I have to do. My mental game will not be forgotten about either with work continuing on that.
Q: What would you say to inspire more females into the sport and what challenges have you faced along the way being a female in a male-dominated sport?
SM: Shooting is one of the few sports where women can compete on a level playing field with men. Clay shooting is an exciting, dynamic sport and is very skilful. The main challenge for women is actually finding a gun that fits! We are generally shorter than men so the gun stocks are usually too long for us. Few are willing to shorten the stock due to the loss of value in the gun but if more women took up the sport then they would be more in demand and would become more valuable.
I have noticed that some men don't like being beaten by a woman! However those types are in the minority and most accept you for the competitor that you are.
You can follow Shona on Twitter @ShonaMarshall_1
Photo Credit: Donald McIntosh