Over the last two years, it’s been an honour to work with and to help the Japan national shooting team in their preparations for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The shooters of Japan are dedicated and hardworking athletes whose desire to represent their country at their home Olympic Games added considerable pressure to this task.
On the 6th November last, Yukie Nakayama delivered an outstanding performance in achieving a Bronze medal and an Olympic quota place during the women’s trap final at the Asian Shooting Championships in Doha.
Pressure is something all athletes feed and during a competition it can become either destructive to performance or for those who can master it, can drive their performance to new levels.
In Doha, Yukie Nakayama took that challenge head on and drove hard to finish her final round of qualification with a 25-target straight. This put her into a shoot-off with four others for a single place in the final. To qualify for the final she must win the shoot-off. Two shooters went out on the first station. Yukie held in for the second station while another shooter was eliminated. This left Yukie and Anastassiya Davydova from Kazakhstan in a duel for the final qualification place. It took another five stations before this challenge was decided and Yukie stepped forward for the final.
I’ve had many discussions about the advantages/disadvantages of participating in a shoot-off and how that effects the athletes’s performance in the following final. Does it help to have that experience of a few extra targets in a single barrel shoot-off? Or do you spend all your competitive energy and focus in winning the shoot-off and leave yourself with nothing for the final?
I’ve found the best approach to navigating this question is for the athlete to stay in a competitive mindset in the time between the end of the shoot-off and the start of the final. Staying in the present, staying in the now. How you manage the time before the final I believe is where the final can be won or lost.
Yukie is a very focused and determined shooter and her preparations for this final were calm and disciplined. She stayed quiet, listening to music while mentally she stayed in that competitive zone. When the final came about she was ready and her focus rose higher.
The final itself was one of the best that I have seen in recent years. It had its fair share of interruptions. Malfunctions with the computer and a mistake at the end of the first 25 targets when the computer was reset instead of advanced to the next stage.
How a shooter handles these disruptions and how it affects them is something that you should always have a plan for. Disruptions are times when focus can be lost or your rhythm disrupted. When the competition resumes – those who are prepared continue as if the disruption hasn’t happened. Those who let it affect them run the risk of a miss.
This final was an excellent learning place for both shooters and coaches alike. On display were many examples of how champions manage the stress and pressures of competition combined with the tactics that coaches teach in handling the technical issues that arise.
In the end. Ray Bassil of Lebanon held onto the top spot taking gold and a quota place. She was followed by Sarsenkul Rysbekova of Kazakhstan also taking silver and a quota place.