The Beginners Guide to Translating at Shooting Competitions

These top Olympic athletes are competing in a World Cup.  It’s about to get LOUD, so loud that staff walk around the spectators offering earplugs.  

As interpreter for the President of the ISSF, I am sitting right behind the athletes and coaches watching their teammates, behind the President and one of the ISSF officials, who are discussing something important. I am interpreting for the President, simultaneously whispering in his ear as the officials explain some technical aspect of the competition.   

The trick is that I’m not wearing earplugs for protection from the shots (see the athlete in the photo below wearing them?), the same shots that make my whispers very loud indeed!  How do 20 years of this affect your hearing, you ask? Huh? Could you speak up? I can’t hear you!  


Oh, alright, I’m exaggerating a little, I’m not deaf...yet.   And the truth is that sitting THIS close to world-class athletes, many of them Olympians, is truly exciting.  Watching their rituals: some of them stretch their calves, their neck, their arms over and over until it’s their turn, others kiss a cross or some other object that holds great meaning for them, some just pace back and forth behind the firing line, like lions smelling the scent of prey.  A final round at an international competition is always tense, electric and even though I am interpreting and doing my best to hear a conversation over the sound of shots, doing my loud whisper, my eyes are watching these amazing humans doing something that I could never even imagine possible.


The ISSF photographers are amazing! They’ve had to learn everything about how to cover this type of competition and they do it so well.  But you can see the tension in their shoulders as they hold their breath to capture the perfect image. 


As the President walks around the range greeting athletes, coaches and industry reps, I get a glimpse of some athletes sitting in the shade, waiting for their turn to compete. They look so serene. Meanwhile, I can’t let my guard down for a minute because people keep stopping to speak to my boss and my translator mind instantly goes into high alert as I begin interpreting on the fly. Sometimes Spanish to English or viceversa, other times an Italian coach starts speaking a high speed mixture of English and Itañol (Italiano/Español) and the tiny translator in my brain has a little panic attack. 


The industry (companies that make clothes, equipment, parts, cartridges, etc.) set up tents around the range so that athletes have a “market” where they can buy their gear. 

So being an interpreter at a Trap or Skeet competition isn’t easy. But it’s certainly exciting!!