Certainly in other sports, such as sprinting and distance running, 'talent' is indisputably a major factor. In running distances from 5,000 metres up to the marathon the most critical capabilities are: to be able to develop a high VO2max, that being the degree to which an individual is able to take up and utilise oxygen from the air to produce energy in the muscles; have a high proportion of slow twitch muscle fibres; and to have slender, tapered arms and legs*. These are traits which to a very large degree are driven by genetics, a.k.a. Talent. In the case of vO2max, there is good scientific evidence to support the degree to which it will improve given a stimulus**. If you don't have the right combination of genes you are not going to be challenging Mo Farah in the 10,000 metres any time
Returning to shooting, I'm pretty sure that if I asked random British shooters to name the greatest TR shooters of our era then the likes of DCL, PMP, DCC and GCDB would come up pretty regularly. (If you're not from the UK, the please feel free to substitute NT, MG, SG or KR from the US, AH from the RSA, JC from Aussie, MC or RG from NZ etc... etc...) Many of these shooters showed a great deal of promise from a relatively early age, which tends to suggest that some form of talent may be important.
By way of contrast, in fullbore rifle shooting it is clearly noticeable that the products of certain schools such as Gresham's, Uppingham and some dump in Surrey that shall remain nameless, as well as former members of specific ATC and ACF units, tend to predominate when it comes to major competition wins and GB representation. This is most easily explained by skilled and enthusiastic cadet SSIs, officers and shooting instructors inspiring young cadets to take up shooting, and then training them to do the right thing the right way.
|Uppingham Veterans RC Team. All World Champions trained by the great SJP.|
I would conjecture that unlike, say, running which can be reduced to a relatively small number of variables, there seem to be many traits which would make you a good rifle shooter each of which would contribute in a relatively minor way, so it is correspondingly less likely that any one person would have a sufficient preponderance of all of those traits to have an overwhelming advantage. To illustrate this point, when people hear that I shoot they tend to ask if I have particularly steady hands or paricularly good eyesight. I don't think I have either of these: the jacket and sling do the work for me, and I am both shortsighted and astigmatic. When considering quality of eyesight, a certain winner of HM Queen's Prize has the idiosyncratic nickname "Blind Pew".
|Harvey "Blind" Pew GM|
* Yes, really. It's to do with the ability to move them quickly owing to lower mass per unit length and the efficiency with which they dissipate heat.
** Bouchard C, Sarzynski MA, Rice TK, Kraus WE, Church TS, et al. (2011) Genomic predictors of the maximal O2 uptake response to standardized exercise training programs. J Appl Physiol 110: 1160–1170; and Skinner JS, Jaskolski A, Jaskolska A, Krasnoff J, Gagnon J, et al. (2001) HERITAGE Family Study. Age, sex, race, initial fitness, and response to training: the HERITAGE Family Study. J Appl Physiol 90: 1770–1776