The Goal

The Goal

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Palma 2015 - Big Match Shooting

Shooting big matches is the apotheosis of our sport and of the big matches the Palma is the greatest. Mastering the fear of failure, or that of success, to shoot well as an individual in a big competition is an achievement; however the self-control required to master that same fear and excitement in the Kolapore, the America Match or the Palma is something further. I remember shooting in my first Kolapore in 2011 where I could hold the rifle in perfect stillness but not on the centre of the target, or centred on the target, where it appeared to vibrate from magpie to magpie with furious purpose. I managed to overcome my weakness on that day, and many of those shooting in the Palma held at Camp Perry over the past few days have done so as well; most notably the head coach, coaches and shooters of the Great Britain Rifle Team, who won the 2015 Palma Match, were the only team ever to win all 6 ranges, took the record for the highest individual score, and were the first team ever to be captained by a woman.

I argue that GB has managed to do this by acting as a closely-coordinated team, each of the individuals in which knows what their task is and executes it as well as they can. Take the target-by-target scores (shown below.) The top four targets are the four GB Team targets, which tells a story all of its own...

The top four targets on the range are GB targets. Photo reproduced with the kind permission of Bill "Obi Wan" Richards.
...however if you compare the difference in score between the top and bottom targets for each team, there's a convincing trend*: the higher-placed the team, the lower the difference between the top and bottom targets. My interpretation is that this strongly suggests that the coaches in the top teams are very closely coordinated by the main coach and share information effectively to limit the damage done to each target's score; the lower-scoring teams do this less effectively.

A scatterplot with trendline of each team's score versus the difference in target score between the highest and lowest scoring targets for that team.
It used to be said that GB shooters were outclassed as individuals, but shone as a team; however in the 2015 Championships, it is clear that this is not the case. If we compare the relative totals of the top 5 teams in the Palma Match and the sums of the team members' scores in the World Individual Long Range Championships, GBRT come out top.

TeamPalma Match Gun ScoreAggregate of Individual Gun Scores
GBR7,1069,392
USA7,0359,370**
RSA7,0109,326
AUS6,9829,318***
NZL6,9549,326****

To my mind, this suggests that GB and the USA teams well above the others in terms of both individual shooting; however GB's superior team performance won them the Palma despite the enormous strides the USA have made under Dennis Flaharty's leadership and Emil Praslick's dedication to their coaching performance. (Note that the USA had the most consistent performance among their four targets, even if not the highest scoring.)

On a final, personal note I sincerely wish I could have taken part as an individual. More so as a member of one of the official teams. I've had the privilege of being a part of two GB successes and hope for the opportunity to be involved in future efforts. There is nothing greater in fullbore rifle shooting to which one should aspire than to represent one's country in the Palma Match. Well done to all those competing in the 2015 World Long Range Championships, whether first or last.

* The R^2 value in the graph indicates only a 7% probability that this trend occurred by chance.
** Brandon Green appears to have one score missing, so his score was adjusted per his average for all distances.
***Colin Cole and George Edser appear to have scores missing, so their scores were adjusted per their average for all distances.
****My Kiwi friends will, no doubt, be disappointed not to have battered Aussie in the Palma as they did in last night's Beldisloe Cup but they can take pride in the fact that they beat them in the individual.

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