BEIRUT

Olympics

Happiness is a warm guitar for Spanish shooter

Spanish shooter Alberto Fernandez poses for a portrait at a shooting range outside Madrid, June 12, 2012. (OLY-SHMTRA-SPAIN-FERNANDEZ/ REUTERS/Susana Vera)

MADRID: Spanish Olympic trap shooter Alberto Fernandez will have to leave his guitar behind and fall back on his collection of Beatles songs to help him unwind when he goes in search of gold at the London Games.

The 2010 world and European champion is one of Spain's leading medal prospects and when he has finished knocking clay targets out of the sky he enjoys nothing more than to kick back and crank up the volume on his electric guitar.

"I have a group, they are called Los Geyperman," Fernandez told Reuters. "I am the guitarist. It's a group of friends here in Madrid. We play for fun in venues around the city.

The group, pronounced 'Hyperman' and named after an old action figure, play a variety of songs and have even incorporated Fernandez's sport into their repertoire.

"We cover Spanish pop songs, and we have written some of our own. Just this week we have composed a song which is all about trap shooting and the competition. We are going to try and make a recording of it."

On the shooting range, Fernandez goes about his work in a measured, trance-like state, loading, firing, ejecting the cartridges like an automaton, without a flicker of emotion whether he is successful or not.

Two days later, on stage in a small bar in northern Madrid, however, he cuts a radically different figure as his four-piece group compete in a kind of 'Battle of the Bands' competition.

He is the most animated figure, striking poses on lead guitar with an earring, black t-shirt and a big grin, most of the crowd having no idea they are watching an Olympic sportsman in action.

"I am a Beatles fanatic," the 29-year-old said of the British band who penned a song called 'Happiness is a warm gun'.

"For me, they are the best. Whenever I go away to compete I take music with me and that includes some Beatles, it helps me to relax at the tournaments.

"I can't take my guitar to London. I already have a lot of baggage and I prefer to put it to one side and focus on my shotgun for a few days."

Learning to avoid distractions and to concentrate completely on the task in hand is of particular importance in a sport which requires split-second reactions, time after time.

Competitors fire at 125 clay targets, flung out at different heights and angles from launchers in the ground, with two shots allowed per clay in qualification.

Failure to get over the 120-mark is likely to leave you out of the final. A further 25 clays for the best shooters with only one shot allowed helps determine the medal positions.

BEIJING NERVES

By his own admission, nerves got the better of him at his first Olympics in Beijing four years ago, when he was taken aback by the size of the event and increased media attention.

"Everything was new and different for me, I wasn't used to it," Fernandez said. "All this meant I didn't do as well as I had expected."

He has been working with his coach and a psychologist from the Spanish Olympic Shooting Federation to improve on this aspect of his technique and he was the first Spaniard to qualify for this year's Olympics when he secured the world title in Munich two years ago.

"What we try to do, is that when you call for the clay target, the seconds between calling for it and the launch, you focus your maximum amount of attention," he said.

"Everyone gets nervous before these events. But you try to think of nothing else, to work on the techniques the coach has been teaching you, and it seems to be working for me."

Fernandez, who followed his father into the sport and started shooting when he was about seven, is part of an eight-strong Spanish Olympic shooting team heading to London with high expectations.

It is their largest contingent since the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, but unfortunately for Fernandez his girlfriend Beatriz Martinez, one of the country's rising stars in trap shooting and European junior champion in 2006, just missed out.

Martinez, who trains with Fernandez, supports his concerts and helps run a small fan club, will be watching from afar, but the two already have a date for their diaries in September.

Los Geyperman impressed the local bar owner with their set in the competition and at two in the morning were negotiating a return to play at an event after London 2012.

 

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