After being set a challenge from her father and brother, Jemma Toms has found her niche.
The Christ the King student originally believed shooting wasn’t a real sport but after accepting the challenge to try it from her brother, Ben, and dad, Andy, she discovered she had not only a passion for it, but pure talent as well.
Jemma, 17, of Ashey, took up field target shooting initially and was on a shooting instructors’ course when she was spotted by the Team England Shooting Academy head coach Steve Downes.
He invited her to go on a trial and then, with just a few chances to shoot the 10m precision air rifle discipline beforehand, won a place.
There are only around 20 youngsters in the academy, and all are earmarked for international success.
“I’ve been shooting since I was around 14,” said Jemma. “I had done a little bit through scouts and camps but hadn’t taken it seriously. I just thought it wasn’t a sport, and a bit silly really. So my dad and brother challenged me, and here I am.
“Most people say their goal is to get to the Olympics, and it is the ultimate. But getting there isn’t really dependent on you, it’s dependent on so many other things.
“So right now, just to be able to represent my country would be amazing, and getting to the Island Games and the Commonwealth Games is a more realistic ambition.”
Jemma is a member of both Shanklin Rifle Club and Carisbrooke Rifle and Pistol Club, but she also trains almost every weekend with her coach, John Saint, in Fareham. Now she is in the academy, she is also required to travel to Wolverhampton every six weeks for training with the rest of the academy members.
Her first major competition takes place on her 18th birthday next month, the Geoff Partridge open competition, and she will also compete in the British Air Gun Championships at Bisley in February.
“I’m really looking forward to getting involved in competition, it’ll be the first time I can see how I get on against others, and set a benchmark. Until now I’ve not had a chance to show everyone what I can do.”
Jemma, who is also a qualified air weapons instructor, a club instructor and a range officer, is also keen to show people not only her own talent but the skills involved in shooting.
“It takes a great deal of physical fitness as well as mental strength to shoot,” she said. “A lot of people think it’s easy to stand absolutely still for an hour, but I can assure you it’s not. There’s a lot of common misconceptions.”