IOC Athletes’ Commission member and Slovak skeet shooter Danka Bartekova talks to us about how she got her start in shooting and her preparation for Rio.
Tell us about your sport
I compete in skeet shooting, which is shotgun shooting. We shoot clay targets which are flung into the air about six metres above the ground from a variety of angles. There are three qualifying rounds of 25 targets each. If you make the top six, you enter the final. A final has two stages; a semi-final and a bronze or gold medal match.
What is your earliest sporting memory?
I remember my first time at the shooting range. I have a twin sister and we were looking forward to starting shooting together. My sister couldn’t come, so I felt alone and very scared. I was told that the shotgun has strong recoil in the shoulder and I was afraid there might be some pain. However, the recoil was much lower than expected – and it was really exciting for me!
“I fell in love with shooting – in fact, I’d say that it was love at first shot.”
It was on this day that I also met my coach. We have now been working together for 17 years – since I was 13 years old. He saw that I had a natural talent, and he was very excited to meet me. When my sister joined for the second training session, he was even more excited!
How and when did you get into your sport?
My Dad is a hobby shooter. I watched him shoot every weekend when I was younger. My dad has been a huge inspiration for me. He loves sport and has always supported me.
Is your family involved in sport?
My sister is my biggest competitor. She is now on maternity leave and is having a break. We have been shooting for the same amount of time. When we were juniors, she won the European Championships and Junior World Championships, and I felt that I was in her shadow. Then I changed my mental preparation and started winning medals.
When I went to the Olympic Games in both Beijing and London, I didn’t want my family to come because I wanted to be 100 per cent focussed. They have never been to the Olympic Games but now I am bringing them to Rio.
Tell us about your experiences in Beijing and London, and how you are preparing for Rio.
It was a good experience for me and has helped my career. One month before the Games, I shot a world record. I went to Beijing as a favourite and expected to get a medal. In fact, we all expected that I was going to medal. It was tough. I wasn’t prepared mentally. I was too focussed and too stressed for the competition and finished in eighth place.
After my experiences in Beijing, I knew how to prepare for the London Games. I was a favourite again but this time I was much better prepared. I felt completely different. I stayed for 21 days and I had a lot of time to enjoy the city and talk to lots of other athletes.
I am taking this shooting season easy. On 1 January 2016, I will switch off my phone until the Olympic Games in Rio. At the start of next year, I am going to travel to Rio and look around the range. We will try and find the most similar range to practise in another part of the world.
Before London, I didn’t log in to Facebook for eight months. Only six people had my number! This kept me focussed. I had my fun in different ways - we travelled all over the world.
What was your motivation to join the IOC Athletes’ Commission
I have always wanted to work for the IOC. I studied International Relations to prepare myself for this work. I didn’t want to give up on sport after I retire. I have a great relationship with my NOC, and they were happy to support me for the election process.
I am very excited about the different projects that the IOC Athletes’ Commission is involved with. For example, the Athlete Career Programme, which is delivered in cooperation with Adecco, is a fantastic resource for athletes. Athletes can receive advice on preparing for a career transition.
The Athlete Learning Gateway, our online education platform, is a great way for athletes to educate themselves, especially when they are busy training and on the road.