I truly appreciate the saying that when one door closes another one opens. My most recent opportunity was to go abroad as Natalie Rooney’s traveling manager. Natalie is a trap shooter who won silver at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. In case you haven’t noticed my slight tan recently, I was in Tucson, Arizona, with her at the last World Cup before the ISSF World Championships later this year in Changwon, South Korea. To be perfectly honest, when Natalie asked me to come on board I was not too sure what to expect. I didn’t think there would be that much to shooting….I mean how hard can it be to show up and shoot things? Boy did I underestimate the amount of mental and physical preparation that goes in to this sport, as well as all the regulations in regards to guns and ammunition.
Before we get into all the new things I learnt about the sport, Tucson was hot! Desert hot – 40 degrees most days. Throw in a bit of monsoon weather and thunderstorms and that was my introduction to Arizona! Don’t get me wrong, I love the heat but not that much. Thank goodness for air con in the airport, hotel, gym, club lounge and car……. Good luck if we were outside and couldn’t find shade! The first few days after we arrived, Team Rooney (Nat, myself and her coach Andrea) hit the gym up for a couple of days to get over the jetlag, but also just to keep active. There is a physical element to shooting as well as mental, and as for me and Andrea, we knew we had to work off the American cuisine we had either eaten or were going to eat.
While I was in Tucson, I learnt so much about the sport especially that it’s a really good idea to pack ear muffs when going to a shooting range…..just in case any of you were wondering. Thankfully Natalie had a spare pair and Andrea was there to keep me up to speed on everything that was happening.
Firstly they have a practice competition day, where they mimic the way the competition will be run. Next day, bright and early, the groups are reshuffled in to six ladies per group and they all get 25 targets per round, with a break in between each round. There is actually a lot of waiting around, for the athletes it’s most likely resting. On the first day of competition there are three rounds, second day there are two rounds, followed by the finals. To get in to the finals you have to be ranked in the top six after the second round on the second day. It’s really a lot easier to watch than to explain, especially because if there are two athletes tied in sixth place, they have a shoot off – the first athlete to miss the target is eliminated.
Something else I bet not many people know is that the athlete can be disqualified if their bullets weigh over a certain amount! The officials do random ammunition weigh-ins with every athlete competing that day……a lot different to the weigh-ins I’m used to! Obviously it’s different to weightlifting in some ways, but then again it’s very similar. All it takes is a second, a lapse of concentration or the wrong body position, to put you out of contention.
Currently Natalie is preparing for the World Championships in South Korea early September. We will be heading to Italy in August to go and train with her coach, who is based in Italy, and finalise the preparation required for the event. Natalie will be going in to this competition knowing she is shooting well, as well as having huge support from New Zealand. I’m looking forward to the bright future we have and achieving all that she is capable of.
The next blog will be written in Italy and delivered to you hot off the press! Did I mention I get to spend my birthday (27 August) in Italy! How good is that?!