Shooting star Sam guns for glory

Sam McGonigal, 18, at his home in Hatfield Woodhouse. He has recently been confirmed as part of the Great British Skeet Clay Pigeon Shooting team and will be taking part in both the European and World Championships later on this year
Sam McGonigal, 18, at his home in Hatfield Woodhouse. He has recently been confirmed as part of the Great British Skeet Clay Pigeon Shooting team and will be taking part in both the European and World Championships later on this year
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A TEENAGE arts student’s favourite hobby really has gone with a bang!

Sam McGonigal, aged 18, has gone from strength to strength since trying his luck at clay pigeon shooting.

The Hatfield Visual Arts College pupil first picked up a shotgun five years ago.

Now Sam, from Hatfield Woodhouse, has been rated the best in the country among under 21s.

Proud dad David said: “I introduced him to clay target shooting when he was 13. We try not to call it clay pigeon shooting because it sounds like shooting animals - it is a term to try to avoid now.

“He seemed to have a flair for it and he has gone from strength to strength.”

Sam was originally competing in the English Skeet category, but decided it was too easy for him. Now he has switched to Olympic Skeet, which is more complicated.

When the gunman calls ‘pull’ to release the target, there can be a delay of anything up to three seconds before it is launched. It means it is harder to shoot.

“I had my own shotgun and licence and did a bit of shooting, but Sam has quickly overtaken me.”

Sam’s performance in competitions all over the UK has led to his number one ranking by the CPSA, the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association.

“It’s a very difficult discipline,” said David. “The main thing you need is very good concentration, and you need to be physically fit because it all happens so quickly when they release the target. You’re not allowed to have the gun up and ready to fire. You have to have it at your hip.”

Sam has a busy summer ahead of him. Next month he is heading to Ireland with the England team for a home international, and then, also in July, he is heading for Belgrade, in Serbia to represent his country in a Grand Prix.

He returns to Belgrade again in September - to take part in the world championship. There appears no prospect of an Olympic place though - there is only one shooting place for Britain, said dad David.

His good shooting may come in useful professionally one day - he has considered joining the Royal Marines when he leaves school.