Rachel Parish (35) is a Commonwealth Gold Medallist who has represented Great Britain overseas at various international clay shooting championships. Her list of accolades and achievements can rival that of most GB athletes who compete at their sport on a professional level and train full time, but when you consider Rachel’s day job it makes her catalogue of wins even more remarkable. 

When she’s not at the shooting ground, she can usually be found in Chesterfields’s busy major trauma unit. As an A&E doctor, she tackles a demanding, high responsibility role; Rachel is a life saver.

She has just returned from Lonato Del Garda in Italy with two more Gold Medals to add to her collection – one for Double Trap at the 2016 European Championships and another in the Double Trap Mixed event. We caught up with Rachel upon her return to the UK, for a quick chat before she swapped her shooting vest for hospital scrubs and went back to the day job…

Rachel, firstly we’d like to congratulate you on your amazing wins at the European Championships – The journey you’ve been on is pretty inspiring to us, with your achievements in shooting and in your professional life. You’re our new hero, in more ways than one! Two more Gold medals for the collection – Where did it all begin?

“It’s a great story! I was fourteen when my Mum met my stepdad. He’d been shooting (mainly NSSA and English skeet) for a few years. He was very much of the opinion that women couldn’t shoot so my Mum learnt to prove him wrong. A few years later I started to shoot too.

He always said if Mum or me ever beat him he would give up. Then, after I’d beaten him a few times he said if Mum ever beat him he’d give up! Sadly he died in January 2014 before seeing me compete at the Glasgow Commonwealths. I know he was very proud of seeing me shoot and win things – I hear he would boast about me to his friends but he never told me!”

So you were first introduced to the sport by your parents – Describe the first time you smashed a target: 

“It was at Bisley Shooting Ground in Surrey. It was a driven target! It was awesome. You get to smash a little clay into a million pieces – how good is that?!”

When you’re not shooting, what are you doing?

“I’m usually at work! I work in A&E. I’m currently working in Chesterfield but I rotate round different hospitals in the region periodically. In my time off I go running and cycling quite often and I play hockey”.

We find you pretty inspirational, but we’d like to know who inspires you the most?

“There are a few! Serena Williams – the fact that she keeps going and winning despite adversity and negative comments is brilliant. Emma Watson – she’s a great advocate for feminism and I completely agree with her assessment of what’s currently happening to women in the work place. Judi Dench just exudes quiet self confidence”.

Behind every successful athlete, there’s usually someone supporting them.  Someone who has their back. Whose support do you think you might not have achieved everything without?

“Colin Webb (my stepdad) – He lent me my trap gun and then never got it back! I’ve used the same trap gun since. It’s a Miroku 3800 and it’s actually starting to fall apart so if anyone wants to buy me a new Perazzi High Tech I wouldn’t say no!”

Is there a particular piece of equipment or accessory, clothing etc that you won’t go to the shooting range without? 

“I like to take a range of clothes – You never know with the British weather what’s going to happen throughout the day! I’ve got a particularly fetching GB bobble hat that stays in my shooting bag ready for when it’s really cold!

How have you managed to juggle the pressure of exams and medical training with your sporting training and achievements?

“It’s really difficult but I definitely believe that if you put your mind to something you can achieve it. I was a final year medical student when I went to Melbourne- it was a bit easier to juggle things then and the medical school were helpful with rearranging my placements so I could go.

In essence I have to be really organized and determined to fit it all in. I work full time and because I work in ED it’s a shift based system with nights, evenings and weekends to juggle around shooting. My colleagues are great at swapping shifts to help me fit it in although that sometimes means I work more intensely for a bit so I can fit shooting in.  For example I’m working the next 4 weekends to compensate for the time off to go to the Europeans”.

If you hadn’t been awesome at shooting, what would you be doing instead? (what do you think you’d be doing in your spare time, for hobbies, and/or perhaps another sport to excel in if shooting hadn’t got in to shooting?

“At school and uni I did fencing. I was captain of the women’s team at both Nottingham and Southampton uni. I enjoyed it a lot and it was brilliant for fitness”.

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Shooting isn’t a ‘mainstream’ sport and it’s certainly not generally seen as a sport for women. Are people generally surprised when you tell them you have a shotgun and have used it to international sporting success?

“Yes! One of my neighbours saw the BBC news article about the European Championships appear in her Facebook newsfeed via a friend of a friend. She didn’t know I shoot or that I’ve won anything! She was pretty surprised”.

Do you ever talk about shooting with your patients?

“Rarely. Occasionally I see a patient who mentions that they shoot and then I will, otherwise it generally doesn’t come up in conversation!

After the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow I was working in the Children’s ED. There was a picture of me with my shotgun and medal on the wall and most of the kids thought it was brilliant to meet someone who had won medals at the Commonwealths!”

You’re literally saving peoples lives day to day, whilst representing the nation and winning medals at the weekend – That can’t leave you with very much spare time! What do you like to do to unwind?

“It really doesn’t leave much time! I enjoy going out with my friends and movie nights in with pizza! I quite like knitting – I pretty good at bobble hats!!”

Briefly describe your training regime in the run up to a big completion such as the Euro Championships:
“It ends up being a bit spread out to balance it with work. I try to exercise regularly even when it’s not competition time; I go running and cycling and go to the gym. I try to shoot a registered competition in the run up to an event or at least do some training pretending it’s a competition. The Europeans was great as we went out reasonably early to Lonato so I had a few days to shoot before the competition started. I try to shoot a bit more in the run up to a bigger competition so perhaps twice a week if possible”.

What advice would you give young women wanting to excel in the sport?

“Choose what you want to do and go for it”.

What’s the most invaluable piece of general advice you’ve ever been given?

“Be humble in victory.

Try and have more than one string to your bow. Shooting, certainly Double Trap, isn’t going to pay the bills or pay for new shoes and handbags! It’s important to have a strategy to be able to enjoy life and to shoot”.

Do you feel there is anything as a lady shooter that has disadvantaged you alongside your male colleagues? If so, how do you level the playing field?

“I think the attitude of male shooters towards women is changing slowly. I wouldn’t say I’ve been disadvantaged but sometimes need to explain that I can shoot just as good scores as men. I try and let my shooting do the talking. If I’m shooting good scores it becomes more and more difficult to ignore!”

What do you usually wear to shoot?

“Comfortable clothes. Usually jeans and a polo shirt. In the winter I’ve got some soft shell trousers and layers of tops to keep warm. Plus my bobble hat in the winter! I quite often shoot in my purple Ugg boots in the winter as they’re so warm and comfy – they often get commented on along the lines of ‘you’re not wearing those to shoot in are you?’!”

Reports have recently emerged from the ISSF that the future of the Double Trap discipline was uncertain and the discipline could face being axed from the Olympics altogether, with some sources citing gender equality as being one of the main concerns – as one of the few female DT shots what are your thoughts on this?

“It’s good that there is finally some recognition of the inequality of it all. As far as I understand it by the time of Tokyo 2020 all sports have to have equal participation. When women’s Double Trap was removed from the Olympic programme participation fell. I hope that double trap won’t be taken out completely and that women’s Double Trap will be included in some way but I genuinely don’t know what is going to happen”.

How do you think we could engage more Female shooters to give Double Trap a try?

“It’s a difficult discipline. It wouldn’t be in the Olympics if it was easy! I think for ladies or anyone to have motivation to shoot it there would need to be something to aim for such as an Olympic place or a place on the GB team for Europeans or World Championships. There’s just too much uncertainty for anyone new to take it up at the moment”.

You have an impressive collection of Gold medals, do you have a favourite? And why is that one special?

“The medals from Melbourne are the most beautiful. I’m actually more proud of my silver medal from Melbourne. I developed a chest infection between the pairs and individual competition and felt so awful on the day of the individual. To still shoot well and come away with a silver medal was really hard work but awesome”.

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Who would make up your dream team in a flush competition?

“John Heagren- He taught my Mum to shoot and is always smiling and cheerful. Plus my Mum – she’s brilliant at shooting sporting and is great fun!”

Which celebrity would you most love to give a shooting lesson to?

“Dara O Briain – I reckon shooting with him would be so much fun!”

What do you think of the recent massive influx in female shooters (BASC just released data showing that 33,500 females in the UK now have a certificate) What do you think is the reason for the increase?

“It seems to be more acceptable now which is brilliant. I think more and more women are realizing how much fun it is and want to shoot more!”

You’ve attended Femmes Fatales events before – what was it that made you want to come along?

“My friend, Heather, had started shooting and wanted to go. She entered us both!”

As someone who’s an experienced and successful shot, how did you find shooting alongside many women who’ve never shot before?

“It was fun. I don’t mind shooting with people who are really good or who have only just started”.

What would you say to any women out there who are thinking of attending their first Femmes Fatales day?

“Do it!”

Bisle

 Join us at Bisley Shooting School on Saturday 13th August