After being introduced to the sport of Target Sprint in 2017, George Smith became GB Youth National Champion at the first attempt. He was named as part of the GB Squad. A phenomenal year.
2018 was a little bit different.
Setbacks can happen at any time and Smith suffered a huge one in October at the Target Sprint GB Festival in Yate, near Bristol.
Target Sprint combines running set distances, usually 400m at a time, with shooting at targets. The first one to complete the course and hit all the targets is the winner.
The 15-year-old went into the competition looking to defend his GB Youth National Title and despite qualifying comfortably in his heat, the final didn’t go to plan.
Smith, from Ellesmere Port, said: “I wanted to at least medal and retain my title. In my heat, I was relaxed and qualified second but when it came to the final I was panicky and I don’t know why.
“It resulted in me rushing my shooting so when I was loading I was dropping pellets and making a mess of it so I ended coming fifth.”
The youngster is determined to use the disappointment in a positive way and some words from his coach after the event have put things into perspective and made Smith realise that he needs to up his game.
He said: “My coach said to me this is the time where when you get a massive setback you need to realise either you need to train harder or you just give it up and I definitely don’t want to give it up.
“I’ve realised I need to train more and work a lot harder.”
Smith travels to Gloucestershire at weekends to train at the Yate Outdoor Sports Complex which is a four-hour drive from his Cheshire home.
Smith has also entered his final year at secondary school so he will be sitting his GCSEs at the end of the school year. Finding the right balance for everything has so far proven difficult.
“I’ve been training a little less if I’m honest. The one thing I struggle with when I’m training at home is motivation. Being a teenager, I miss a lot of stuff such as going out with my mates so I do that sometimes instead of training.”
The GB Festival wasn’t his only setback of the year; his first came in March last year. Smith went into 2018 targeting a place at the ISSF Target Sprint World Championships in Korea as part of the GB squad but missed out.
“On the day of the GB selection I didn’t race very well. I knew that myself and I told the coaches that but I still was pretty confident of getting selected so it was a massive shock and a massive disappointment, but it did drive me on more.”
Drive him on it did and it hasn’t been all doom and gloom.
Over the summer, he competed in international competitions in Holland and most memorably Italy in the Walther Trophy where he smashed his personal best time by 30 seconds and qualified for the final.
He said: “I was lucky enough to go to Italy and Holland and compete internationally with the GB squad. I got the chance to prove to the coaches that I deserve to be there.
None of it would be possible though without his parents Ian and Maria. Target Sprint is a self-funded sport so everything has to be paid for by the athletes and their parents including the trips abroad.
“Without my parents I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Everything is self-funded. All of the athletes are really lucky to have parents that support us fully.”
Smith’s focus has now turned to the 2019 season with targets already set and international tournaments already in his sights including events in Serbia, Hungary and a World Tour Event in the UK.
A winter break has only increased Smith’s hunger for the sport and while he is having to spread his focus around a number of tasks in his life, training is well underway in his training area which he created in his back garden.
Nationally, more challenges are on the horizon for Smith as he steps up to Junior level when he turns 16 in June. It means that he will be up against people as old as 21 but Smith is looking forward to mixing it with the older competitors.
“I’ll probably struggle a little bit because we’ve got people in the squad who have won medals internationally. More than anything I’m looking forward to racing against them and testing myself.
“I’ve learned from the setbacks I had last year so I’m just focusing on the future and trying to get back into the training more often and get prepared for the competitions coming up.”