Of all times to have a crisis of confidence, when you’re at the top of the world, in a metaphorical sense anyway, is about as inconvenient a moment as any. 

It’s exactly the scenario Seonaid McIntosh had to battle, however, and it’s taken a monumental effort to recover from. 

In September 2019, McIntosh climbed to the top of the shooting world rankings, in the three position (3P) rifle event. 

Just 23 years old at the time, it appeared she had the world at her feet. 

But the mind can do funny things to even the best athletes in the world and indeed, McIntosh has been forced to battle some ferocious demons over the past few years. 

Instead of departing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a medal as many expected, McIntosh failed to reach even the final of either of her events. 

It was a bitter blow and it marked the start of an extremely testing few years for the Edinburgh shooter. 

Finally, however, McIntosh has emerged from the shackles that constrained her for so long. 

And this year, she has re-established herself as one of the very best shooters on the planet. 

It’s been a tough slog, but McIntosh is grateful her perseverance has finally paid dividends. 

“It feels really good to be back at this point,” the 27-year-old says. 

“I’ve had such a difficult couple of years so it was a great feeling that first time I shot well again – I felt back to myself and so I was like yeah, it is still there. That was amazing. 

“There absolutely were moments I had wondered if I was going to ever get it back.  

“I had real self-trust issues and I was questioning myself and wondering had I lulled myself into a false sense of security in terms of my ability? So trying to make decisions and be forceful with those decisions was hard. You’re always second-guessing yourself.” 

Something that’s proved a considerable hindrance to McIntosh is the health issues that have blighted her in recent years. 

A combination of Crohn’s disease plus rheumatoid arthritis has not been easy for McIntosh to get on top of but finally, she’s confident she’s got enough of a handle on her health that performance can now be her primary focus. 

To reach such a point, however, required a clarity of thought that until the end of last year, had proved entirely elusive for McIntosh. 

There is little wonder that many around her were sceptical of her proposal, which was to step away, temporarily, from the event in which she had reached world number one four years ago. To step away from the rifle 3P was unquestionably a risk but it was one McIntosh was certain she had to take. 

“In December-time, I had this moment of saying to myself that although I might turn out to be wrong, this is what I’m feeling and I’m going to stick to my guns. So, I said I wanted to stop doing the 3P for a few months. I didn’t even want to think about it, I just wanted to concentrate on the air rifle, try to win the Olympic quota place in that and just give myself a bit more space by only training for one event. I was spreading myself too thin and because I wasn’t well, it was all a downwards spiral.  

“People around me were a bit concerned because it was the event I was expected to win medals in and I was saying I didn’t want to do it. But I knew it was the right thing for me at that point.”  

McIntosh’s gut feeling has proven to be spot on. 

This season, she’s already won European silver in the 10m air rifle, World Cup gold in both the 10m air rifle and the rifle 3P after returning to the event in March, plus European Games bronze as well as shooting a world record in the 3P. 

Her greatest achievement, however, has been once again reaching the top of the world rankings. 

Earlier this summer, McIntosh yet again became world number one, but this time in the 10m air rifle. 

It was, admits McIntosh, both a significant achievement in itself but perhaps even more pertinently, one that affirmed her decision to trust her instincts. 

“It’s awesome to be world number one, and it’s always been a goal of mine to be good at both events,” she says.  

“It was really good for my own sanity too and for helping me to be able to trust myself again – that I do know what’s best for me, I just need to be firm with it. 

“That’s something I’m going to take forward. 

“It’s also transferred into my medial stuff – I’d felt like I’d been viewed as a hypochondriac and I’d wondered if I was weak or I had a low pain threshold but now, I know I’m not crazy and I know my body so I stand my ground more.” 

McIntosh is now ready for one of the biggest weeks of her year; the World Championships in Baku. 

Today, she will begin her campaign in the air rifle mixed team event but with a whopping seven events on her schedule over the next week or so, she’ll have little time to relax. 

But having rediscovered her form over recent months, McIntosh harbours high hopes for this event. 

“I’d like gold medals in both (the air rifle and 3P). That’s improbable but I am capable of it – a lot depends on the conditions and how the other girls shoot,” she says.  

“I’d certainly expect to be making the final in both individual events and then you can’t control how the finals go, but I am good at finals. So we’ll see what I can do.”