Person of the month
István Péni: „Adrenalin is not good for sport shooters”
After the Rio Olympics he quickly made up for the missed secondary school final exams, passed his second advanced level language exam and got admitted to the Economics and Management Faculty of Corvinus University in English language. Then István Péni could have had some break, however, this year in autumn he finished his career in the junior age group with an ISSF World Cup Final trophy and became the first in the adult world ranking.
In the World Cup Finals in New Delhi you won the first and second places in the adult’s world ranking and as a farewell you also set two junior world records before transferring to the adults group next year. This is not bad.
Practically, the adult age group does not involve too many changes for me as I have been competing both with the juniors and the men so far. The fact that I do not have to go to junior competitions any more actually means an easier situation for me, as I will have more time to prepare. Luckily, I have managed to collect enough junior medals so far.
Can we say that your expertise and routine achieved so far had been successfully combined by the time of the world cup organized in New Delhi? Are you satisfied with it?
Very much so. Because of the calculation of points and quotas it was much more difficult to qualify for the world cup finals than to get to the Olympics, so it was a great achievement in itself. In the finals the difference between the competitors is really only minute. What is more, I was the only one who could compete in two events. Finally, I managed to secure a gold and a bronze medal, moreover, this was my last chance to set two new junior world records as I hadn’t had them yet. Being at present the first in the world ranking at an Olympic event does not mean that I will win each and every competition from now on. This is a sport where from among the first 20 competitors any of them could be the world champion, as in shooting the physical form and the state of mind at the given moment matter a lot. Nevertheless, this is still a beautiful transfer into another age group.
You career seems to be undiminished - your results are better year by year. It seems to be evident that a 20-year-old pretender has appeared.
The field is getting younger, at the same time the sport shooting career lasts much longer than in other sports. A professional sport shooter can go on competing up to his/her forties, if they are really good. What makes this sport difficult is that only those can be in it long term who are really the best. That is, in the competitions it’s not the different age groups that compare their knowledge but the best sportsmen of each age group compete against each-other.
Is there any development in the weapons?
Not only the weapons but the whole sport is dynamically changing. Technology and the training methods have changed so much that i.e. I learnt to shoot in quite a different way from how the previous generation did. For example, the electronic scoring board at 50 m is an enormous advantage, which was not so common in Hungary 10 years ago. Then they used scopes, which makes matters slower, whereas now as soon as I have shot, the result appears next to me on a screen, what is more, it is exactly evaluated. Or let’s take the scatt shooter training system, which is a camera attached to the end of my rifle, and it shows me exactly how my hands move. If you learn to shoot in this way, the trainer can immediately correct your mistakes. The results themselves have improved so much that what I shot in Rio last year would have scored a silver medal in London.
But if your age group – similarly to yourself – have grown up with these technical novelties, what will make you the very best sport shooter out of the best ones?
First of all – lots of trainings. Anyway, I am a training-addict. The basis for my mental training is that I shoot even 300-400 times during a training, which is a tremendously high number. Actually, nowadays we have quite a lot of complementary trainings as well, which we did not use to have. I pay special attention to it that in addition to the shooting range I should go to do TRX, breathing training and whenever I am preparing for a big competition like the Olympics I also attend session with the sports psychiatrist. I also have a physiotherapist, as this is a one-sided sport. This is also sport-specific today: no weight-lifting for sport shooters, but you have to train certain muscles in order to be able to hold the 5.5 kg rifle for hours on end.
Does the clothing also play a role in sport shooting?
Or course! Not only the rifle, the brand and the quality of the ammunition matter, but also the clothing: how hard and thick the material is, what the cut is like, how easily I can take on certain body positions in it. All these are rigorously checked before the competitions by grams and millimetres.
What mental traits help you in a competitive situation?
Being calm and focused. Adrenalin is not good for sport shooters, because what is good in another sport and results in a positively agile state of mind, is a handicap for us. Just on the contrary, we have to learn how to calm ourselves down. We have to slow our heartrate down artificially to be able to aim accurately. We have to exclude all other factors and there and then in front of the audience we have to arrive at a kind of flow state.
How can you slow down your pulse rate?
Breathing techniques help, with it I can regulate my heartrate within some seconds. But meditation techniques, autogenic training are also efficient: these help me relax, forget where I happen to be and help me concentrate on the target.
You were able to master this routine quite early.
Yes I was, as both my parents are sport shooters and I owe them a lot. First I played football, as you cannot even start sport shooting under 10 years of age. Then I often went with my father to his trainings and waited until he finished so that I could fire just one or two shots. Actually, from the very beginnings I was raised in it, hunting is also a tradition in our family. This year I managed to shoot the first boar in my life in the woods.
So, the American university is not in the picture anymore?
No, it isn’t, as because of the sport shooting I had to reconsider that the field out there is not as strong as in Europe. I would have few opponents, which is not good, because you cannot develop in this way. Instead, I chose the Economics and Management Faculty of Corvinus University in English. Moreover, the National Shooting Range is going to be built soon and the shooting range of UTE is also going to be modernized, where I hope to be able to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.
István Péni ’s purchases of sports gear have been supported since 2011 by MOL Talent Support Program.