WORDS Marcus JanssenJuly 02, 2018
Peter Wilson might be best know for the prizes his shotgun skills have brought him - an Olympic gold and an MBE - but food is always foremost in his mind when it comes to game shooting.
A familiar face at Gleneagles since his 2012 medal triumph, he’s also a man who loves a challenge. All this made him an obvious choice to participate in a uniquely testing – and tasty – sporting event this summer: the Great Grouse Race.
The ‘race’ took place on the “Glorious 12th” of August (the start of the red grouse season in Scotland). A group of sharp-shooting hotel guests was given only a couple of hours of walked-up shooting to harvest enough game to satisfy the evening’s dinner guests, not just in our fine-dining restaurants here at Gleneagles, but also at a special dinner in London.
“I loved every minute,” laughs Wilson. “I knew it would be something special when I was first asked to participate, but it totally blew my expectations out of the park. It also showed shooting in a positive light, focusing on the link with food – which is exactly how it should be.
To maximise their chances of success on the moor, Peter and his teammates practised hard the day before at Gleneagles’ shooting school, which offers simulated targets to suit all abilities, mimicking a variety of quarry ranging from driven grouse to wild haggis.
“Gleneagles has got a great set-up; I’ve always enjoyed shooting there; what I like most is how accessible it is for newcomers,” says Peter.
An appreciation of good food and where it comes from also underpins Peter’s shooting career. It was practising to improve his aim at game birds that set Peter on the path to success.
I grew up on a small farm in North Dorset and was given every opportunity to build dens, shoot and do all sorts of outdoor things. It was definitely shooting for the pot. As I got older, I wanted to improve, so I started shooting clays. It was only when I was about 19 that I started to take it seriously and think that there could be a career in it. But that was a big jump: I dropped out of University aged 19 to give it a good go. I didn’t really think about the Olympics much at first. Initially, I said I’d give myself a year, then, when I won the Junior European Championships, I said I’d give it one more and took it from there.”Peter’s practical approach helped him overcome a number of setbacks along the way: far from being deterred by the hurdles in his path, he rose to overcome them: “It definitely wasn’t all roses,” he admits. “But, I’m of the view that the highs look after themselves, it’s how you deal with the lows that defines you.”
One big “high” that’s hard not to associate with Wilson, however, is his 2012 victory on home turf in the London Olympics in the men’s Double Trap competition. It came during a year in which he’d already set a new world record for his chosen shooting discipline, and earned him an MBE. Not one to rest on his laurels, Peter was soon in search of a new challenge, however, and announced his retirement from competitive shooting. He found his next project in the form of coaching rising star James Dedman.
With his Yorkshire-born protégé now ranked among the top juniors in the world, Peter has once again set his sights on a new goal. It’s another golden one: he’s officially out of retirement and working towards Tokyo 2020. At first glance, his decision to return to competition might appear odd given his preferred discipline – Double Trap – has been removed from the Japanese games. For this new medal mission he must therefore master a new (to him) form of clay shooting: Olympic Trap. And, if that weren’t enough, preparation also entails uprooting his life from Dorset and moving to Wales to be closer to a training facility.
It’s certainly not for the faint hearted, but, as we’ve already noticed, Peter loves a challenge more than most. So, what spurred him to take this one on? “A very good friend of mine told me that no man has ever won an Olympic gold medal in two separate shotgun disciplines. I looked into it and found that it had been done by two women, but not a man. I couldn’t resist!” We’ll be watching him with great interest.
For more information or to book shooting lessons at Gleneagles, visit: www.gleneagles.com/pursuits/shooting/