Gold target: shooting for glory

When British athlete Peter Wilson won gold in the double trap last week he was quick to attribute his success to his coach, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Hasher Al Maktoum. Rob Kemp reveals the history behind this unlikely partnership and the long road to victory

Amidst the frenzied celebrations taking place in London, one new gold medallist is casting his cheers farther afield.

Marksman Peter Wilson secured the host nation’s fourth gold medal when the 25-year-old won the men’s double trap shooting final at the Royal Artillery Barracks.

But as his team-mates, like cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins, were paying tribute to their UK-based support teams, Wilson instead gave thanks to his coach His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Hasher Al Maktoum and the ruling family of Dubai.

“It’s quite bonkers really that he agreed to coach me," Wilson said. "I’m just so honored. It’s as if Prince William was teaching me how to fly a helicopter.”

The unusual union has its roots in the Beijing Olympics of 2008. The then Olympic champion in the double trap event, HH Sheikh Ahmed was competing in his third and final Games. Peter Wilson was a junior medal prospect who flew to China as part of Team GB’s Olympic Experience Programme.

The pair met up again in February 2009 when Wilson asked HH Sheikh Ahmed to coach him. While many of Wilson’s co-competitors at the London Games have received substantial financial support from UK Sport and sponsors, Wilson’s lack of success at the time meant he was struggling to get any funding.

During that time, HH Sheikh Ahmed recognised in the young sportsman a desire to get to the top, a quality that he considers key to gaining success.

Over the past four years HH Sheikh Ahmed, who was also the UAE national squash champion before taking up clay pigeon shooting at the age of 34, coached Wilson during annual trips to Dubai that enabled the Brit to train through the winter.

Wilson would then return to his parents’ farm in Somerset to continue work on raising the £10,000 a year needed to fund his gold medal ambitions. The partnership paid off when Wilson set a new record in the double trap at a World Cup event in Arizona, followed by a silver medal winning performance at the World Championships which secured his place on the Olympic team.

As Wilson sank to his knees to celebrate his victory at London last week, his mentor was cheering him on from the stands. A delighted HH Sheikh Ahmed explained to the media that Wilson's willingness to listen had played a major role in realising his Olympic potential, adding that although they had changed everything about the way the athlete shot, his temperament had been commendable throughout. A champion waiting to happen.