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This Summer we’ll be looking at a number of Scottish athletes who have come through the Winning Students scholarship scheme.  
The Winning Students programme has been one of Scottish sports’ success stories over the past twelve years.
The programme ensures that student athletes get support and flexibility to train and compete while studying at a Scottish college or university. Since its inception in 2008, Winning Student athletes have performed at every Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
The way it works is that gifted young athletes are supported by scholarships of up to £6,000 a year. The money can be used for a range of sports services such as physiotherapy, coaching, psychology and training as well as academic related expenses such as accommodation, living costs and study fees. Winning Students scholars are identified and nominated by the governing body of their sport and the scholarships are funded by the Scottish Funding Council.
This week we hear from Seonaid McIntosh who is a reigning World and European champion shooter – and she is keen to hit the bullseye this summer at the greatest show on earth.
The 25-year-old, from a family steeped in shooting, is set to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo and follow in the footsteps of her sister, Jennifer, a Team GB athlete at both London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.
McIntosh has spent much of her illustrious career contemplating Olympic participation, however, she could scarcely have imagined such an elongated and disjointed build-up to her maiden Games.
“I haven’t had a single competition for over a year now,” said McIntosh, highlighting the devastating impact of COVID-19 on her sport. “It’s the longest I’ve ever been away from competition, and this is the longest I’ve been in one country since I was ten years old, perhaps even younger.
“It’s certainly the longest I’ve been in one place without staying with other people or being in a hotel. It’s very strange.”
McIntosh was competing at the Scottish Airgun Championships when the first wave of the pandemic took a vice-like grip of the nation, and it wasn’t long before her planned training camps and competitions were postponed.
“I tried to do a little bit of training at the start of lockdown,” explained McIntosh. ”When the Olympics was cancelled, though, and everything else in between, I decided to take a break for a little while. Rest and recuperate, I guess.
“I train at the University of Edinburgh and I managed to get some of my equipment out of there before the Olympics was cancelled – and I tried to see if there was another venue I could train at later on.
“My dad (her coach) had some of the equipment I’m not allowed to keep in my flat. I had some things I was allowed to keep with me, so I was able to do some, what we call, dry training, in my flat for a couple of weeks.
“My flatmate is a biathlete and it’s important she maintains high fitness. I started doing a lot more fitness work with her to try and make physical improvements, which is sometimes hard to do during shooting training.”
The lack of practice in the build-up to the Olympics could lead to some unexpected outcomes, but McIntosh believes unpredictability is part of the sport’s charm.
“In shooting there is always shock results,” she acknowledged. “It’s quite normal. There will be shock results in both directions with people shooting higher than you’d expect and others shooting lower than you’d expect, but I don’t know if that will have anything to do with COVID-19 as people can find the Olympics very stressful. I am not sure if it will be more different than usual.”
Despite the uncertainty, McIntosh’s mindset hasn’t changed. A podium finish remains an overriding ambition, but her primary focus is on performance.


“I’d like a medal, that would be cool,” she said. “It’s perfectly possible and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. I’ve only got one event before the Olympics and I haven’t shot for over a year in competition, so I think if I go out there and shoot well then I’ll be happy regardless of what happens.“There are other athletes in other countries that have been competing. There’s recently been a World Cup in Delhi that I didn’t attend, and lots of other athletes are beginning to compete again.”

The MSc Performance Psychology student is well versed in multitasking, but an enforced absence from shooting has enabled her to focus predominantly on her studies.
“Normally it’s hard to juggle things when I’m away so much,” said McIntosh. “Being stuck at home has made things a little bit easier. I’m nearly finished my Masters and I’ve got a few assignments due in the next few weeks. I’m getting through the work and then it’s just my dissertation after that.”
McIntosh is a proud participant in the Winning Students scholarship scheme and she relishes the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with others within the network.

‘It’s awesome. I love being a part of Winning Students,” she continued. “I think it’s nice to hear about all the other student-athletes and sometimes getting to meet them, obviously outwith COVID-19 times.

“It’s great meeting with other student-athletes to find out how they deal with mixing sport and studies. I also get quite a lot of funding from Winning Students, which is helpful for tuition fees, kit and maintaining a healthy diet. My equipment is sometimes quite expensive so any help is much appreciated.”

McIntosh’s attention is currently on her studies, but it won’t be too long until she is shooting for the stars in Tokyo.
Based on article by  Graham Semple
Image from Donald McIntosh