Essex Olympic medallist Matthew Coward-Holley on Tokyo 2020
- Credit: Getty Images
Bringing home a bronze medal for Team GB at Tokyo 2020 has suddenly put Essex trap shooter Matthew Coward-Holley in the limelight, writes Nicky Adams.
Matthew Coward-Holley is an athlete who sets his sights high.
‘I was extremely happy to come away from my first Olympics with a bronze medal in Men’s Trap Shooting, but at the same time I was left feeling dissatisfied,’ admits Matthew. ‘Gold was my goal.’
Matthew, who grew up in Chelmsford, is no stranger to the podium.
In the 2019 season he won the Men’s Trap at the European Shooting Championships as well as at the International Shooting Sport Federation’s World Cup to secure his place at the Olympics in Tokyo, which were of course expected to take place the following year.
When it was decided the Games could not go ahead as planned, like all world-class athletes, Matthew was forced to wait another year to pull on his Team GB Olympic kit.
‘At the time, the postponement was a big blow,’ he says, ‘but it definitely gave me the opportunity to put in more training and to perfect things I wouldn’t have had the chance to if the Olympics had gone ahead in 2020.’
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By the time August 2021 rolled around, Matthew knew he had done everything he could to prepare for his event before travelling to Tokyo.
He was even undaunted by the fact that, at the age of 26, many of his opponents were two decades older and had had a lot more experience of high-pressure competition.
‘I had beaten them all on multiple occasions,’ points out Matthew. ‘That gave me great confidence I could do it again.’
But the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Trap event turned out to be an edge-of-the seat competition, as each of the shooters lined up in the Asaka Shooting Range to aim their shotguns at a succession of clay targets released into the air by machine, with the intention of obliterating as many as possible.
‘The scores through qualification at Tokyo were very high, so I knew the margin for error was extremely low,’ says Matthew.
In the early rounds of his first Olympic event, Matthew added to the tension by missing three of his first ten targets.
He recovered well however and scored 14 successive hits in the following rounds to put himself into the six-man elimination final – and contention for a medal.
‘The final is of course anyone’s to win as the round is started from scratch,’ Matthew explains. ‘I still believed I was able to come away with a medal.’
Matthew’s performance in the final was unflinching and he scored a creditable 33 out of 40, missing out on the gold medal play-off by just one shot to Czech shooter Jiří Lipták.
Lipták went on to defeat his compatriot David Kostelecký in a sudden-death shoot-off, which resulted in the pair taking home gold and silver respectively, and leaving Matthew in the bronze medal position.
‘A big mix of emotions’ is how Matthew describes his experience of the medal ceremony at which he received the bronze that would help Team GB to finish the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in an impressive fourth place overall.
At the same time, this poignant moment represented the culmination of Matthew’s 10-year career in trap shooting, which began when he was a student at Felsted School.
‘My father first introduced me to shooting at the age of eight,’ remembers Matthew. ‘When I was 12, I decided to give it up to focus on playing rugby, but a back injury four years later forced me off the pitch and so I decided to start shooting again.’
Competing in the trap event for the school team, Matthew progressed quickly and was invited to join the England Shooting Team for European, World and Home International Championships.
‘The thing I like most about shooting is that it never fails to set me new challenges, and it gives me the opportunity to strive for perfection,’ he says.
Even when he’s not competing, shooting is an important part of Matthew’s life. ‘I spend a lot of time training in Italy and at home,’ he says.
‘I also coach shooting and run my own shooting business, Hillfort Sporting, with my partner Augusta. She’s also a competitive shooter and represents Puerto Rico.’
Matthew credits his partner, as well as his family and friends, for helping him to achieve success in his sporting career.
‘Definitely, without the people around me I wouldn’t be an Olympic bronze medallist,’ he says.
‘I have always received the utmost support from my mother and father – they’ve been by my side since the beginning.’ Hopefully, his loved ones will be able to support Matthew in person as he represents Team GB at the next Olympics.
‘The lack of spectators at Tokyo was of course a shame, but they did a phenomenal job of running an extremely efficient and safe Games,’ says Matthew. ‘My next challenge is Paris 2024, where I’ll be aiming for a very different outcome.’
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