Emily Damment visits Commonwealth Games hopeful Ellie Seward to find out more about how she got into Trap shooting and her hopes for the future

As I drive precariously down fog-shrouded lanes into the depths of Yeovil for my interview with Ellie Seward, I wonder about the sort of person that might greet me at the other end. Crowned UK Junior and Senior Ladies Trap champion in 2017, and selected to shoot at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, this 20-year-old from Chard is clearly a force to be reckoned with. I imagine a kind of shooting robot, perhaps slightly irritated at having to talk to the dishevelled journalist taking up precious minutes of her practice time. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I am warmly welcomed into the clubhouse at Brook Bank Shooting Ground by Ellie, her father and Christian Schofield, the GB Talent Pathway manager. After fuelling up on coffee and cake, the two gentlemen depart, and I begin getting to know the chatty, smiling young woman before me.

In light of her achievements, I’m surprised to find out that she has been shooting for just shy of four years, after being introduced to the sport by her dad.

“He did a lot of Sporting shooting when he was younger and he’s a really good shot,” she tells me. “I tried it but didn’t really like it that much, so I tried lots of disciplines and settled on Trap. I loved it, and I was alright at it.”

Overlooking this understatement, I’m curious to know the secret to her success. It’s not uncommon for young shooters’ scores to take a tumble as they move out of Juniors, but Ellie has bucked the trend and topped the Seniors before she has even turned 21.

“That was sort of my goal at the start of the year. It happens to a lot of people and it’s not nice when you go from Juniors to Seniors and sort of disappear a little bit. So my goal was for that not to happen – I wanted to be up challenging the Seniors before I actually was a Senior, which just came through hard work, and lots of training!”

I don’t doubt her commitment for a second; juggling a foundation degree in sports development and coaching, a part-time job, and the hours of training necessary to be at the top of your game is not for the half-hearted, and the thought of it makes my head spin. Ellie, on the other hand, seems entirely unfazed by it all, and I wonder if her steady, just-get-it-done demeanour is what gives her a competitive edge.

“It was amazing being crowned Junior and Senior Ladies champion last year,” she says. “I don’t look at scoreboards, so after my rounds I just thought ‘I’m doing pretty well today, maybe I’ll get a personal best’, and was feeling pretty chilled about it all. Then someone came up to me and said I should go and look at the scoreboard… I just couldn’t believe it. I knew I was top Junior but to be top Senior as well was crazy.

“I’m feeling every emotion possible for the Commonwealth Games but I’m really looking forward to it, I’m so excited to go!”

I wonder what it must feel like to suddenly be competing on the world stage with shooters you looked up to as role models just a few years ago. She will be on a team alongside Ed and Abbey Ling, the latter having had a hand in Ellie’s choice to specialise in Trap. “I can remember when I first started shooting, in those six months before I started Trap, and Abbey actually came into my school and did a talk in our assembly,” Ellie recalls. “I spoke to her then and she encouraged me to maybe move into the Trap disciplines. To think about that now that we’re teammates is really cool. It’s weird thinking that I might be a role model for someone one day… I want to be, but it’s weird to think about now.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if there are young girls out there already looking to her for inspiration, and wondering how they can take their shooting to the next level. Aside from the self-imposed training regime, Ellie’s involvement with British Shooting’s Talent Pathway and GB Academy Programme has had a positive effect on moving her shooting career forwards.

“I was kind of on the Talent Pathway,” she says, laughing. “I maybe couldn’t go to as many of the days that were available as I’d have liked to, but my involvement in it definitely helped me get onto the GB Academy as they were a little more aware of my presence. I’ve only really just started with the academy [less than a month at time of interview] so I haven’t had the chance to feel the full benefits yet, but they will help a lot with the sports science side of stuff.

“You get access to a sports psychologist, physio and a lifestyle developer… they help you work out what you want to do, how to do it and how you can balance shooting with normal life, because most people have jobs they need to focus on as well, and it is an expensive sport after all.”

This is another area in which the British Shooting programmes have given her a boost, and which can no doubt act as a deterrent to plenty of budding shooters, who might see the associated costs of taking their competitive shooting to the next level as unattainable.

“I get help from Sports Aid. I’ve been on the Backing the Best programme for two years now and I’ve been nominated for it again this year which is really good. They support you by covering some of your costs. You give them proof of purchase and they reimburse you, so that was around £5,000 last year which was amazing and really helped to cover the international competitions – that’s the most expensive part!”

We leave the warmth of the clubhouse and head out to the Trap layout, where I embarrass myself by missing lots, and Ellie impresses me with her lightning-fast target acquisition; the clays seem hardly to have left the trench before they are annihilated, one after the other like clockwork.

GB shotgun coach Kevin Gill turns up to give her some training, and while we are chatting he mentions the psychological challenges of shooting something as prestigious as the Commonwealth Games – the fine line between remaining calm enough to shoot, while also being aware that it is a different ball game and you do need to up your performance.

Ellie nods calmly, smiling, and I feel a flash of confidence in her ability and attitude. This one seems to take it all in her stride, and I’d be surprised if she doesn’t shine on that Gold Coast come April.