Jess Burgess, Olympic Skeet star and Sporting Diana, on finding the right balance between a city career and competitive shooting
In my early years of secondary education, I had little exposure to the country. I’d certainly never heard the words ‘Olympic Skeet’. My father discovered rural pursuits as a great way to escape his City job. He gave me pocket money so I could load his gun during a hunting day. I was woefully underprepared for the snow and mud, overwhelmed in my mum’s oversized waterproof jacket and without boots. However, I managed to have my first go at shooting, using my dad’s Beretta 12-bore on an overhead pigeon. I was put off at first by the heavy gun and recoil as well as the cold and rain. But later I was offered the chance to shoot clays with a 20-bore using 21g cartridges, and I didn’t look back.
As soon as I had the right gear I was able to enjoy the simple joys of being outside. I was fortunate enough to shoot through school, where Sarah Daley was coach, and I was able to practise on Wednesdays as part of designated ‘sports time’. It was here that I had my first experience of competitive clay-shooting. It was here that ‘Olympic Skeet’ was first mentioned but, when the ranges were hard to come by, I didn’t actively pursue the discipline. London 2012 was a great opportunity to experience this sport. I was completely blown away. I watched the ladies’ final, one of Kimberly Rhode’s world-record events. She demonstrated such calm and consistency under pressure – it was inspiring and I felt I needed to explore the discipline further.
First taste of Olympic Skeet
After some research, I found the National Clay Shooting Centre and had my first lesson there. While I loved my experience, I decided I would wait to pursue a career in the City after I graduated from university. I continued shooting through my schooling and university before landing in London. It wasn’t long before I wanted to put regular clay shooting back into my life. The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club had recently sprung up, so I joined and took part in a few local get-togethers. While I didn’t win rosettes for my baking, my shooting was more successful. Anita North & Allen Warren were holding a day of Olympic disciplines including Olympic Trap & Olympic Skeet. Here is where my Olympic Skeet experience began.
In the discipline’s off-season between 2016-17, I met Pip Watson, an established Olympic Skeet shot. She took me in and taught me all the basics. She prepared me brilliantly for the British Shooting Talent Pathway where I began my training with David Dale. Allen Warren, a British Shooting coach, was instrumental to my progress in the programme. Allen Warren helped me make the England and Great Britain shooting teams. Since then, I have almost completely stopped shooting in any other disciplines. I now work with Jeremy Bird who is a GB Olympic Skeet Shooter. My biggest challenge, however, has always been to manage my energy throughout the week in order to train and compete on weekends. All this while working a full-time finance job. It can get a bit relentless.
Train while working a full-time position
So why do I do it? It’s simple: I love the sport. I love training, the improvement process, failure, getting up, and becoming stronger. I love the adrenaline rush and the contrast between being outdoors and behind a computer. Since 2005, with more than fifteen years of experience in Olympic Skeet. I have seven caps for Great Britain and two caps for England. The last year I represented Great Britain for the first time. I was awarded a quota spot at the European Games, which is given to a country and not an individual, as well as a European Championships gold team. I also hold the 2022 ladies’ titles in both the UK Championships and British Championships. While I was juggling my City career and the many hours spent at the ranges training and competing, I also maintained an 8-year career in the City. I am always looking for ways to further my career in shooting. Most recently, I joined the Eley Hawk team as a 2023 member.
Top tip: The countryside and all its possibilities will be waiting for you when the time is right. Choose your own time and choose yourself.
Are you looking for the best tips to choose the right shooting kit? Visit our guide for the best cartridge bag. Learn more about the Sporting Dianas. Read about the motivations of rural mental health activist Rebecca Wilson by clicking here.
Dubarry has been a great supporter of Sporting Dianas. See Dubarry’s range of sporting clothing and footwear here.