Georgina Roberts: Cancer and transforming a ‘neglected’ sport


Photo credit: Georgina Roberts

Georgina Roberts talks to Alasdair Hooper about a difficult 2019 for her and her family, learning to accept who she is and why she wants to ensure shooting becomes more accepted as a sport.

I am Georgina Roberts; I shoot Olympic Trap and I am going to take over the world.”

It’s taken a lot for Georgina Roberts to get to this point.

This is a woman who knows what she wants – to change the state of play for the better and take her sport to new levels.

This is an athlete who wants to rewrite age-old gender-based stereotypes. Shooting is not just an activity for men smoking cigars and pulling a trigger. It’s far more than that.

Having these ambitions, however, is one thing. Having the confidence and belief in yourself is something else.

Following a rollercoaster of a 2019 this is where Roberts is now. After taking time away from her sport she’s been able to focus on herself and concentrate on the reasons why she fell in love with shooting in the first place.

It all comes down to her dad and his ongoing fight with cancer.

“My dad was diagnosed with cancer – he had cancer for a few years so that was nothing new – but his cancer had spread,” explained the 22-year-old in an exclusive interview with SportSpiel.

“I got myself a full-time job, which is a real eye-opener for anyone.

“But in terms of trying to fund my own shooting, I wanted to take that weight off my parents because I’m an only child and shooting is still a very expensive sport.

“My mum’s a headteacher, so she’s got a big full-time job that is very stressful. She’s doing an amazing job and doing the best she can.

“But there’s still only so much that you can do.

“Hopefully she sees it anyway, but I’ve been trying my best to ease the stress a little bit. I moved back home, got a full-time job and tried to help support my dad.

“He’s had brachytherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and now he’s on chemotherapy so he’s doing an amazing job.

“He sees it more as an inconvenience but watching someone go through that whole process is really quite hard.”

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO ROBERTS’ EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SPORTSPIEL

Roberts is in the fortunate position where she has received endless support from her work and also from British Shooting throughout a tough year.

Ultimately it has meant that, while she’s been supporting her dad through everything, she’s also been able to look at herself.

“Not that many people know what’s actually been going on behind closed doors, so it’s been an eye-opener,” she said.

“It’s also been really good for me because I took some time out to focus on me.

“Seeing someone go through that makes you more aware of, you know, there might not be a tomorrow.

“Just do it now. There might not be a next year.

“I focussed on myself and my fitness – obviously I signed up for a half marathon – which has been really good for me.

“Running has actually completely changed my mindset. It’s working on little goals that add up to a bigger picture.

“Then, all of a sudden, you’re there at your end goal and you need to set another one. As cringey as it sounds it has changed my life actually.

“Having some time away from shooting has made me fall more in love with shooting because now when I go shooting it’s ‘I’m having such a good time’.

“’I am so happy to be here, this is not a really hard training day, I am so excited to be here’.

“This is more than just shooting. This is me in my happy place.”

The Mintridge Foundation ambassador may have represented Wales and Great Britain in Olympic Trap since the age of 17 but there’s much more in her armoury these days.

As well as being a competitor, Roberts is also a board member of the Welsh Clay Target Shooting Association, a columnist in Clay Shooting Magazine and is a blogger for BASC news and British Shooting.

But what she takes a huge sense of pride in is her coaching of the younger generation and her role as a development coach on the Talent Pathway.

“That’s definitely built my mindset for my own shooting and it’s kept me busy, which is definitely something I needed at this point of my life,” she said.

“It’s kept me going and it has really helped.

“Earlier this year, the end of January 2020, I went to my first international competition – the Malaga Grand Prix.

“I made my first international final and I won gold.

“For the first time I’ve been in an international senior final, it was a bit twitchy bum if I’m honest and I was very nervous, but to come out with a gold medal was something really special and it meant a lot for my dad as well.

“He feels like an inconvenience to a lot of people. He doesn’t want people feeling sorry for him and he doesn’t want to feel like ‘you don’t need to take me to chemo’.

“Now he’s like ‘it’s ok because looking after me hasn’t stopped her from doing what she wants to do’.

“He would never ever want my shooting to suffer as a result of helping with his cancer.”

One of the keys factors in helping the sport-mad 22-year-old be who she is now is accepting herself.

It has taken time, but it’s been well worth it.

“In terms of sport I remember reading a quote – I can’t remember who said it – but if you’re not truly happy with yourself you’re already on the backfoot,” she explained.

“If you stand on the peg next to someone who is truly happy within themselves, they’re always going to have that edge and that advantage.

“There’s going to be no second-guessing. Am I good enough to be here? Do I deserve to be here?

“It’s going to be I deserve to be here. I am happy. I have put in the work. I am ready for this. This gold is mine.

“It’s always going to be that battle so until you’re like ‘I am Georgina Roberts, I shoot Olympic Trap and I am going to take over the world’ there’s always going to be that difference.

“It’s the same within business. You need to know who you are and you need to be happy with who you are.

“I cannot scream and shout enough about taking care of yourself.

“It’s not just drinking enough water and getting enough sleep at night. It’s ‘I am Georgina and I like sport’.

“I don’t need to pretend to be someone I’m not. This is who I am. People need to accept me for who I am and if they don’t then I don’t care.

“It’s a battle but it’s a battle worth having.”

 

Roberts’ passion for her sport is evident from the very start, something that saw her win the sport category at the Women of the Future awards 2019.

At the forefront of her aims and ambitions lie two key objectives – pushing more women into shooting but also changing the public’s perception of her ‘neglected’ sport.

“It [shooting] is really popular with hen dos at the minute because people are starting to understand that there’s so much more to it than just men smoking cigars and pulling a trigger,” she said.

“We need up-and-coming women or else, the level of women that we have at the minute, we’re going to get to a point where we don’t compete anymore and there’s going to be no one to replace us, which is a really scary prospect.

“One area we need to target the most is female juniors. They have so much to offer us in terms of – obviously they’re still juniors – but they’re going to have access to the world stage at a junior level.

“Then they can work up into senior level and hopefully one day become Olympic champions.”

She continued: “I think shooting is a very neglected sport.

“I know a lot of people think guns are dangerous, and shooting is dangerous, and they don’t see it as a sport.

“If you left a shotgun standing in the corner of the room it wouldn’t jump up and shoot itself.

“It wouldn’t go off – someone needs to pull the trigger.

“Shooting isn’t dangerous as long as the people who are safe, capable and responsible are the people that are competing and shooting.

“As long as people understand that, they’ll know it’s not a dangerous sport and they’ll be more willing and interested in taking part in it.

“I think it’s just how we convey that to people.

“But it’s stopping them from introducing their children, or their wives, to the sport potentially.

“Actually, shooting is a sport that is under threat because double trap was taken out of the Olympics because of equality – there was no women’s event.

“The women’s event was taken out of the Olympics because there wasn’t enough participation.

“We didn’t just lose a women’s discipline; we lost the men’s discipline.

“We can’t let that happen again otherwise we’re going to have no sport.”

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