At this summer’s Commonwealth Games, athlete’s can expect a media frenzy, a 44,000 seater stadium packed to the rafters and a clamour for autographs outside the venue.
Well, that’s at least what the coming weeks will look like for world-famous runners like Usain Bolt and Mo Farah. However, such is the paradox of the Games, other participants won’t have quite so glamorous an experience.
For Dromore girl Louise Aiken, her third Games will probably go by with comparatively little fanfare.
Such is the case when your sport, in her case women’s shooting, isn’t quite at the top of the attention pecking order in major games such as these.
Nonetheless, should Aiken bring home a medal for Northern Ireland, the local woman will be a hero in her hometown.
“It’s such a fantastic experience to represent your country at that sort of standard,” she told the Leader, speaking from Scotland in the midst of a busy training schedule.
“This year will be a bit different for us because we’re in a satellite village up in Dundee. We’ll be away from the Athletes’ Village itself.
“We’re a wee bit out of the way. we’ll get down to the opening ceremony and then come back up so we’ll miss the massive atmosphere that is around the village.”
Louise is no stranger to the Commonwealths, even if this one will have a different and perhaps quieter feel. She competed in Melbourne in 2006 and in Delhi in 2010, picking up credible finishes in the mid-teens on both occasions.
However, she’s going into her third games in confident mood and is hoping for her best ever finish come the big event on Monday (28 July):
“I’d like to do better than I did in either of the last Copmmonwealth Games. Training’s going well but it’s all on the day really. It’s about how you can control the nerves and knowing that you can do it.
“I would hope to perform on the same level that I have been doing this year. I’ve been shooting not too bad so hopefully I can continue that. If I do, I might be in with a shout of something but I’ll just go and enjoy the experience. I’ll do the best I can and hopefully that will be enough to get somewhere.
“There will be double gold medallists from the last games there and people who compete in World Cups. I’ll be up against a very high standard. It’s actually the highest we can go because women’s shooting isn’t in the Olympics.”
Louise was already at the Commonwealth shooting venue at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre in Carnoustie last week but, before she made the trip over, she got all the help she needed from her home club at Downshire Rifle Club in Hillsborough.
“They have been very good,” she said. “They’ve been coming down to give me extra time to train and they’ve just been very supportive.
“Then I came over to Scotland and have been practicing at the ranges here. They’re very good so we’ve no complaints from that point of view.
“I can feel the nerves starting to build now. I don’t know if it’s any different because it’s the closest to a home games that we will ever get. Getting on the ferry to come over is a bit different to a long journey to India. The weather’s not quite as good either!
“It’s something that you don’t do all the time. I travel to shooting events all over the place for most of the year but the Commonwealth Games is totally different. It really is the number one highlight of all the tournaments we play.
“There are seats behind us at the range that hold about 250-300. There’s a bit of added presure of that as well but it’s good for people to see what we actually do. If we can encourage somebody to take it up then that’s a plus.”
Louise will compete for honours in Carnoustie on Monday 28 July in the Small Bore Rifle Prone event, which will last just one hour.
It’ll all be over in a bang but here’s hoping Louise will be on target for Northern Ireland.