IT’S a well-worn trope to suggest that children of sporting parents have some kind of natural advantage over their peers.
If this is indeed true it was, surely then, inevitable that the offspring of Scotland’s most successful shooting couple would go on themselves to excel.
With Seonaid McIntosh the youngest in a family of elite shooters, on first glance then, it seems she has always been destined to become a world-class shooter.
It is though, insists the 24-year-old, not nearly as straightforward as that.
“People talk about athletic genes and I know it’s said that if you have two runners as your parents you’ve got a good chance of being a good runner yourself because of physiology but that doesn’t apply in shooting,” she says.
“So any skill or talent that I might have, I really don’t think it’s genetic. My parents raised me in a certain way and I guess helped me develop particular mental skills that help me but I don’t think genetically they could have given me anything that could have helped me. So when people say shooting’s in my blood I think well, it’s not actually, I’ve had to do all of this myself.”
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McIntosh has had sky-high standards to live up to, to say the least.
Her mother, Shirley, was Scotland’s most decorated female Commonwealth Games athlete; her father, Donald, was a Scottish internationalist and is now GB coach and her elder sister, Jen, took their mother’s record as most decorated Commonwealth Games female in winning two golds, a silver and two bronzes, as well as competing in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
But the youngest McIntosh has already eclipsed them all.
In 2019, she became Britain’s most successful female rifle shooter of all-time, winning three World Cup medals, ranking number one in the world for the 50m Rifle Three Position event and set an equal world record with a score in the 300m Rifle Prone event, results which backed-up her World Championship gold medal won in 2018.
It is quite a CV, with her success ensuring that having had her Olympic selection confirmed earlier this week, she will go to the Tokyo Games this summer as one of Team GB’s brightest medal prospects.
Being on such a hot streak of form in 2019 meant this time last year, before coronavirus turned the sporting world upside down and forced the postponement of the Olympics, McIntosh was starting to feel the pressure of heading to Tokyo as the best in the world. And she was, she admits, not entirely comfortable with having such expectations hanging over her, with the extra twelve months making a significant difference to her mindset.
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“This time last year, I’d come off the back of a really successful season so when we went into 2020 I felt like ‘oh my god, this is Olympic year’ and even though I was in the form of my life, I felt really nervous,” she says.
“Previously, I’d always assumed I’d scrape into the Olympics whereas all of a sudden, I was world number one and people were expecting me to do well so the nerves hit me. But I feel a lot better this year and actually, this extra time has allowed the nerves to dissipate.”
McIntosh is not one of those athletes who, for as long as they can remember, has dreamt about becoming an Olympian.
With her sister Jen, who is five years her elder, amongst the best in the world from a young age, McIntosh initially actively railed against following in Jen’s footsteps. It was, though, when her sister competed in the London Olympics that McIntosh began to envisage herself becoming a shooter too and perhaps unusually, she had an innate belief she would become successful.
“I always just assumed I would go to the Olympics,” she says.
“I know that might make me sound cocky but when I was younger, I was shooting similar scores to what Jen had been shooting at the same age so I just thought well if I put in the same amount of work as Jen has, I’ll be able to do what she’s done. It all seemed quite logical to me.”
McIntosh is the first in her family though to be talked about as a potential Olympic champion. To outsiders, it would appear that being world number one gives her a better chance than most to claim gold but McIntosh is quick to rebuff this suggestion, although she admits that occasionally, her mind drifts to what it would be like to emerge victorious in Tokyo.
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“Just because I’ve got the title of world number one doesn’t mean I’m necessarily better than the others,” she says.
“I would say there’s lots of us who are the best in the world and then it comes down to who is best on that day.
“It’s really cool to be talked about as having a chance of winning Olympic gold but I have to park that and go and try and actually do it.
“I do think about winning though. Sometimes I lie in bed and it pops into my head. I know it would be incredible but I tell myself to stop thinking about it and go to sleep.”
McIntosh is in the same boat as every other Olympic hopeful in that she cannot be entirely sure what her plans for the next six months are. With the European Championships in March cancelled, her next competitive outing will likely be the World Cup in South Korea in April but whatever happens, McIntosh is impressively relaxed about the run-in to Tokyo.
“In some ways I’m really keen to get back competing but in other ways, I’m quite nervous about getting back into it.
“What’s going to happen is out of my hands and I’m ok with that, I like having a schedule but I’m also pretty adaptable,” she says.
“So I’m not panicking – if I don’t end up having many competitions between now and Tokyo, that’s fine.”