The final day of the tour and the journey home…
Staggered (and staggering?) returns from various festivities on Saturday night brought about a phased wake up for the team. For some it was relatively late in comparison to the previous 2 weeks – 9am! On Sunday morning the team began the process of flying home, packing personal and team kit and loading up the buses to begin the 4 hour drive back to Johannesburg airport. Even though most Sunday night flights out of Johannesburg are considered pretty awful (as everyone flies at that time) it was relatively straight forward thanks to the help of the Virgin Atlantic and airport security staff. With no issues experienced, the team had a pleasant journey home and arrived Monday morning back at Heathrow.
For the main body of our final diary entry we have chosen to reflect on the tour as a whole.
Before this team had even had it’s first training weekend, some observers lauded it as one of the strongest GB lineups to be selected. Expectation from some in the UK was significant and the pressure to succeed was felt across the team. We knew this was both a psychological advantage and a challenge. The challenge was going to be just how much each and every team member stepped up to the task at hand and delivered to our potential – and boy, did we.
GB’s 3 main objectives were to win all 3 team matches. Notably our shooting and coaching standards increased throughout the two weeks despite fatigue, the relentless heat and the aforementioned “Bloemfontein Belly” hitting the team towards the end of the tour. We peaked each time we were asked to by our Captain.
Individual performances were also to a very high standard. Not only did Toby win the Grand Aggregate and South African Open Championships, our Captain won his second State President’s final and we also had many members of the team winning other competitions and aggregates as well. We could not have expected to take 7 of the top 10 places in each of the SA Open Championships and the State Presidents competitions.
What has made this tour so memorable was just how much fun the team had. GB teams can often be heard saying “great tour” and “love to tour” (especially if you ask a team member about it at Bisley) but the love of touring and the way this particular team gelled made it that bit more special.
A significant foundation of this success was the management team, and in particular our Captain, Nick. With a permanent smile on his face he brought the team together magnificently from the point of selection until he was deposited into the VW van in the State President’s Chair. The ideal end to a great tour and the entire team is very grateful for his captaincy and honoured to tour with him and his management team, Jeremy and Derek.
We tried to make this tour as open as possible for both close followers and those who might not have prior knowledge of target rifle shooting, with regular updates on social media and live scores. The feedback we have received has been almost unanimously positive. 264 new people are following our Facebook page and the reach of our activity on our first training weekend was higher than the combined peak reach of the 2015 and 2016 tours. We hope future teams will be similarly focused on sharing news in this way.
The team would also like to highlight the support of other nations with the provision of live scores for the big team matches – thanks in particular go to Catherine Berry and Ben Emms from the Australian Team and Paul Prinsloo and Andre Du Toit from the South African Team. Finally, thank you to everyone who sent in messages of support to the team, it was very much appreciated. We are all looking forward to our next GB rifle tour with great anticipation.
Onwards and upwards!