LONDON 2012: Stirton gunning to get to Olympics by himself
SHOOTER Neil Stirton insists he isn't prepared to accept any London 2012 handouts instead attempting to be in the Olympic range - and not the stands - in his own right.
BRITISH RIVARLY: Neil Stirton and Jon Hammond are both bidding to earn places on Britain's shooting team for next year's London Olympics
The 29-year-old was forced to play a watching brief at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008, travelling to the Far East as a reserve to Jon Hammond.
That should be far from the case next year with Britain, as the host nation, guaranteed nine places in nine of the 15 events including Stirton's newest 50m rifle three positions.
However Stirton, who also shoots the 50m rifle prone which he must qualify for, is refusing to take the easy route to the London Olympics with this year's World Cup legs playing a vital role in qualification.
Stirton failed to medal in either rifle discipline at the first leg in Australia and the second in Korea but has vowed to do all he can to secure a 2012 place by himself this year.
"It was inspirational being in Beijing, I was also out there as part of a London 2012 ambition tour, but it was also quite frustrating," said Stirton - who will compete at the third World Cup leg in America in May.
"It just made me all the more determined not to be in the same position again. I really want to be there for London 2012 and I will be gutted if I miss out.
"The World Cup events this year are absolutely crucial if I am going to qualify and while we also have quota places I have no interest in getting through to the Olympics like that.
"I want to be there on merit and I feel confident that I am good enough to do that. I was as high as sixth in the world rankings in the prone a couple of years ago so I know I've got what it takes to not only get to London but also to compete for a medal.
"As with any sport, there is such tough competition, but in the rifle it really is anyone's game. There are up to 30 or 40 competitors who could, on their day, challenge for the title."
At the Beijing Olympics Stirton watched fellow Scot Hammond fail to reach the finals of 10m air rifle, 50m three positions and 50m prone while he teamed up with him at October's Commonwealth Games.
Stirton claimed 50m prone and 50m three positions pairs gold and bronze respectively with Hammond, who also took the former singles title, and believes he can push him all the way in 2012 qualification.
"How you perform in the World Cups is the decisive factor in qualifying for the Games," added Stirton. "There are such a small number of places available for such a quality field.
"I'm competing in the prone and also a slightly newer event for me, the three-position, but despite having only recently taken it up I've had some good results and I'm hopeful that I can qualify in one of them.
"Winning gold at the commonwealths was a big bonus for me and has given me some real confidence but the prone pairs isn't at the Olympics so Jon and I are both competing individually now."