Shooting team on target for Rio success
8 April 2016
SHOOTING: A host of young guns under the guidance of Olympic veterans will hit the range at the Rio 2016 Games, with 16 shooters announced on to the Australian Olympic Team at a selection event in Sydney on Friday.
At 16 Aislin Jones will make history in Rio as she become Australia’s youngest ever Olympic shooter, while fellow youngsters Jack Rossiter (18) and James Willett (20) highlight the new generation of shooting stars in the Aussie ranks.
They’ll have plenty of experience by their sides with the likes of current World Champion and set-to-be five-time Olympian Warren Potent, who is 54 and the eldest Australian athlete selected for Rio 2016 to date.
Belarussian born Lalilta Yauhleuskaya is remarkably going to her sixth Olympics (four for Australia) and Daniel Repacholi will be contesting his fourth Games.
“It’s always great to have a mix of young and old on a Team because it gives the youngsters a chance to get mentored by the experienced athletes,” said Potent, who won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Games.
“I’m pretty confident of the sport’s future in Australia with the talent of these athletes here today.”
William Godward, Jennifer Hens, Dane Sampson and youngster Rossiter combine with Potent to make up the rifle representatives.
“At an Olympic Games everyone has a chance. Someone could come through and shoot a PB and beat everyone, it’s just one of those freaky sports sometimes where that can happen.
“I’m obviously aiming to get on the podium,” Potent confirmed. “I certainly think I have what it takes to win and if all goes well I could walk away with a medal like I did in Beijing.”
All four of Australia’s Olympic shooting gold medals have come in the shotgun discipline and there is no doubt there is still plenty of depth amongst the Australian shotgun ranks.
Record-breaking youngster Jones joins fellow Olympic debutants Willett, Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Laetisha Scanlan, world championship medallist Catherine Skinner, London Olympian Keith Ferguson and skeet star Paul Adams.
At 16 years and 181 days when the Games kick-off on August 5, skeet shooter Jones will easily set a new mark for the youngest Australian Olympic shooter. Peter Papps was 17 at the Melbourne 1956 Games.
“It’s pretty exciting to know that I’ll be the youngest Olympic shooter for Australia,” Jones said.
“I’ve been dreaming of going to an Olympics for a few years now and to have the words written down on paper ‘you’ve been selected for Rio’ is amazing.”
Scanlan has already had success on the world stage and will look to help her country return to the Olympic podium after Australia missed a medal for the first time since Atlanta 1996 at the London Games four years ago.
“It’s a massive honour to make any Australian Team let alone an Olympic Team,” said the 25-year-old from Melbourne.
“I’m really looking forward to this experience and hopefully if everything goes to plan and all my hard work pays off, then I can do Australia proud.”
Willett doesn’t plan on just making up the numbers in Rio. He has already broken junior world records and claimed World Cup medals after just over 12 months in the discipline. Who can blame the Corowa-based double-trap shooter for aiming high?
“It’s a pretty big goal that I’ve had for a few years now,” he said. “It’s my dream come true and now I’ll set some new goals for the rest of the year and hopefully train towards doing my best at the Olympics and try to bring a medal home.”
Having previously had to drive three hours to practice in Melbourne, the choice to bring training a lot closer to home has helped greatly with Willett’s success.
“Dad and I built a shooting range in the backyard so I can make sure I was training a lot more regularly and it has certainly paid off.
“I was overseas when the email was sent about my selection and my parents saw it before me. I spoke to them the next day and it was so exciting for all of us to have made the Team.”
The team is rounded out by five pistol shooters in Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Yauhleuskaya, David Chapman, Blake Blackburn, Elena Galiabovitch and Repacholi.
It will be Repacholi’s fourth Olympic Games and he is ready to put on a show come August.
“All the hard work and sacrifice has paid off to get the chance to represent my country at my fourth Olympic Games.
“Now it’s all about winning gold. I have the right mindset and I’m shooting well so I’m hoping to return as Olympic Champion.”
It will be a busy few months for the Australian Team who will now head to a number of overseas competition including some to next week’s test event in Rio. The venue in Deodoro was built for the 2007 Pan American Games and has been refurbished for the Rio Olympics.
Two final athletes will be selected to the shooting section of the Australian Olympic Team for the men’s trap event at a later date. Mitchell Illes has taken his appeal to CAS for his non-nomination. Adam Vella and Michael Diamond were the athletes Shooting Australia had in line for the two positions.
With 119 days until the Opening Ceremony in Rio the Australian Team now totals 85 athletes from seven sports.