Sergey Zubenko

From Russia with Love: Sergey Zubenko

Sergey Zubenko
Sergey’s top secret pre-match meditation session

Us Brits generally think we have a good handle on the FT scene, almost a sense of ownership of it. Along the way though we’ve seen shooters from smaller FT countries, fresh to the sport, take the top honours at the World Championships despite our best efforts. This has raised some eyebrows back in the UK, but then the British shooters travelling abroad perhaps have seen it coming. Jose Redondo shook the scene in 2010 by dropping less than 10 shots out of the 150 over the 3 days for his world title. Unheard of. But in the Euskadi Open months before he’d already pushed Andy Calpin to a shoot-off and it was only his lack of experience in high pressure shoot offs that let him down. A year later and Conor McFlynn from Northern Ireland almost pulled the same trick dropping only 11 shots, but again he was known to the UK field having visited the UK before. In 2012 and 2013 our sense of order was restored, with England’s Andrew Gillott and John Costello taking the respective world titles. We didn’t have to worry anymore. In Germany Simon Ayers’ mishap on the last lane meant he was out of a shoot off for top place, but into one with a unknown Russian shooter who had quietly climbed the rankings over the 3 days without anyone really noticing. Yet he was quickly despatched by Simon on a pair of long standers. Overall we were generally happy that amongst the Brits we’d got a good handle on the challengers to any title in the sport. New Zealand didn’t go according to plan for a number of reasons, so that was written off perhaps as an oddity, so the eyes of British FT refocused on Lithuania for 2015 to re-establish the perceived world order.

Come Day 1 and we saw Welshman Jack Harris in the lead with just one shot dropped. A fellow Brit, we could get behind that. We had to, we didn’t have an Englishman up there. But there were a few other shooters just one or two shots behind so it was all to play for.

Day 2 arrived and Jack dropped 3, one behind the top score of 48 shared by another Welshman, Dorian Falconer, and a Russian shooter who no one really knew, speculating it was the Russian from Germany. Although it was looking like it Wales could perhaps live up to their team potential and lift just more than a few jars at the end of the event, coming from the UK, broadly we weren’t still concerned as England’s Ian Taylor was just one shot behind. The Russian had other ideas however, and this time he wasn’t playing catchup. Holding his cool on Day 3 while others dropped away he delivered a third 48, his 6 misses over the 3 days something no-one could match, and the title was duly his. Now everyone knew his name. Sergey Zubenko. World Champion.

We had the name now but just who was this guy? Barely recognisable to the perceived establishment of FT he was still a mystery man. Although since winning the title Sergey has posted several videos on his YouTube channel about FT we still really didn’t know much about him. So we decided we’d do some intel gathering under the guise of a quick interview and share the findings we gleaned. As much as we would have loved to cross the globe and visit him in his top secret Siberian training centre, we decided email would be easier and less chilly, so set about asking a few simple questions. Here’s how that went.

Sergey Zubenko
Sergey’s top secret method for range-finding

So can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, what you do for a living, your age etc?

I was born in in Moscow, in 1980, and I live here my entire life. Currently, I’m employed at Mail.ru Games as a senior level designer.

How long have you been shooting FT, and how did you get into it, what attracted you to FT?

I’m shooting FT till 2007. I’m having airguns from 12 years old, and I always enjoyed shooting, but the classic 10m sport shooting was not for me. One day surfing internet I discovered such thing as Field Target. For few years I used custom made airguns, converted to PCP from spring airgun (one day I will make video about it, it is hilarious, I bet you’ve never seen anything like that). Long story short, I’ve made some success in local competitions, and i’ve been invited to join Team Russia, to participate in WFTC-2010. It was great honor to me, and that’s how things became serious.

And what is the FT scene like in Russia, how many clubs and shooters are there etc? What happens in winter?

That’s quite sad story, because quite few people shoot FT in here. Of course, we have few clubs, but nothing really is going on. In Moscow, we have competitions every month, but the number of participants are low, 10-15 people.

Our winter season lasts from November to March, we have 6 stages of Winter League, as you may call it. We shoot indoors, and our greatest achievement, is that that’s going on in few cities all over the country.

Do you shoot just FT or other shooting sports? Do you just shoot air rifles?

Yeah, I’m FT and airgun-only shooter.

What kit do you use for FT, any reasons why it’s that gun and scope?

I’m using Feinwerkbau P-70 and Sightron SIII 10-50×60. When I have been invited to Team Russia, I’ve started to search a good rifle for myself, because I could not come to Worlds with home-made rifle. I mean, borders, papers and stuff… Anyway, I’ve tried lots of rifles, I liked Walther LG 300 and FWB p-70, but I could not afford Walther, so I bought Feinwerkbau, and that was best decision that I ever made.

As for Sightron, I’ve needed a scope, because for two years I shot with PR 20-50, what I borrowed from Kon Grigoriev, my friend and teacher. So, the Sightron was quite affordable, and I’ve heard good things about it. I think that it is best value-for-money scope for Field Target.

Of course, mine is a little “customized” to get bigger gaps on a parallax wheel.

How often do you practice, and what do you do for practice?

Once a week, for 2 hours. 25m, indoors. Standing, kneeling. Few shots sitting on a beanbag, just to remind myself that I’m still Field Target shooter. That’s during winter. When its warm, still, once a week, walk a course, 50 targets, and few dozens of practice shots. That is too little, but I don’t have time for more.

Your youtube videos are really informative, how long do they take, have you done this sort of video thing before?

No, I never did anything like this before. Each video takes about 3 hours to take, and then another 3 hours to edit. The reason why I make them, is that I feel responsibility as a world champion (which I don’t feel myself), to share information about how did I get so far.

Who do you admire in FT?

British shooters. There are too many of them to call names, but you, guys, are the top.

If there was one bit of advice for someone wanting to do well in FT, what would you say it was?

Don’t wait, you will never be more ready. Find the closest competition, and join. If you don’t compete, you wont win.

Best regards, Sergey Zubenko.

Thanks very much Sergey, top stuff!