Unfazed and undaunted, Hoberg ready to take on the world

By Greg Campbell

Alex Hoberg is a young man reaching for the stars. At 18 years of age, he has already achieved much,  and is in a hurry to accomplish more – both on and off the range.

The rifle athlete from Adelaide already has one Commonwealth Games and a Youth Olympic Games in his resume and in 12 months’ time he will be on the line competing against the world’s best 10m Air Rifle athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Despite being a teenage Games rookie in the daunting Games pressure-cooker competition atmosphere, Hoberg holds no fear, nor does he have modest expectations.

“I want to win – that’s the goal,” he says forthrightly. “I’m not going to set my expectations any lower than that. I don’t think there is any point going to the Games thinking my goal is not to win. If you are not going there to win, you shouldn’t be there.”

Hoberg’s entry to rifle shooting came via an unusual entry point.

When aged 12, he attended the paintball birthday party of a fellow Year 5 friend and was hooked,  but his dad, Raleigh, initially steered him towards field and target archery and purchased him a compound bow.

Soon after, Hoberg then attended a shooting range and was hooked and in 2017 he was selected in the Australian team for the Junior World Championships in Suhl, Germany.

“I remember the flight over. I wanted to stay up for the whole flight. Everyone was saying you’re crazy. I was so excited,” he recalled.

Hoberg was later selected for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where he reached the 10m Air Rifle final. He enjoyed a blazing start to the final and was leading after the 10, 12 and 14 shot stages in a closely contested 24-shot final.

At the 20-shot first elimination stage, Hoberg was just 0.2 points in third place behind the leader Abdullah Hel Baki from Bangladesh, and then lost a shoot-off with Ravi Kumar from India. The event was ultimately won by his Australian team-mate, Dane Sampson.

Hoberg freely admits he was in tears for days afterwards knowing he was fractionally close to a medal, possibly gold, at the Games. He says an innocent single shout from the packed crowd broke his concentration.

“I heard someone in the crowd screaming out my name and then I was turned off, I wasn’t focusing any more. It was ‘oh my God, I am winning’. It was a mental turn-off that killed me,” he said.

Being a 16-year-old in an adult Games Village was also socially challenging. Because of his age, Hoberg faced restrictions and was limited to where he could go while with the Australian Commonwealth Games team.

But when he attended the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires later in the year, his team-mates and opponents were all under 18 years of age. Many of his Australian team-mates remain firm friends two years later.

At the YOG, Hoberg was leading at the half-way mark in the 10m Air Rifle final before he slipped away and finished fifth. “I realised I was in first place and I went ‘don’t let what happened at the Commonwealth Games happen here’. As soon as I thought that, it was game over,” he admitted.

After capturing the 2019 Oceania 10m Air Rifle title, Hoberg arrived at this year’s Olympic nomination trials full of confidence.

“I knew I was shooting the scores. I knew my training was at its peak leading up to it. Going into both 3P and Air Rifle I knew I had what it took. It was a matter of am I going to do it on the day, and for the most part I did,” he said.

In the opening nomination trial, Hoberg peeled off a personal best qualification score of 629.2, a score which would have earned a place in the 2016 Rio Olympic final but finished third in the final behind Sampson and fellow South Australian, Jack Rossiter.

He also topped qualification in the third nomination event but succumbed to Sampson in the final with a wayward last shot before redeeming himself when beating Sampson in the fourth and final nomination trial.

With the Tokyo Olympic Games postponed by 12 months, Hoberg is maintaining a very busy schedule.

Apart from rifle practice, Hoberg is completing his school studies and working part-time at his dad’s business, 4WD Systems.

He hopes to study medicine from next year and will shortly undertake the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) – a two hour long, computer-based test which measures a range of aptitudes and skills considered to be important as a medical student and doctor.

Even though the Tokyo Games will be his first Olympics, Hoberg has already contested his first “dummy” Olympics.

“At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, I shot a practice final with myself, the same day they shot their Air Rifle. I remember in my practice final I shot a higher score than they shot at the Olympics for the gold medal,” he said.

With a personal best score of 629.2 locked away, Hoberg is looking to perform consistently well leading into the Tokyo Games. “In training I don’t want to be shooting below that at all,” he said.

He also believes with 12 months additional training and experience he will be a better shooter. “With the same amount of commitment, motivation and training, there is no reason why I can’t perform even better in 2021 in Tokyo than I could have in 2020,” he said.

With the assistance of the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI) , Hoberg is using the services of Athens-based Greek sports psychologist, Nektarios Stavrou, to advance the mental aspects of shooting, particularly when he is leading a final.

“It’s more nervous when you are winning the final. When you are in first place, you are better off thinking you are already in first place, let’s see how far I can get. Instead of using it as fear, using it as a confidence booster,” he said.

Hoberg, like many world class athletes, doesn’t lack confidence but it is a matter of properly harnessing his full arsenal of talents to produce the best results on the day.

And who is to say that that day won’t be in Tokyo next year?


Pistol shooting is the right medicine for Elena

By Greg Campbell

Elena Galiabovitch is equally skilled with a surgical scalpel or sports pistol. Her hands are steady, her concentration is unwavering, and her skills are precise.

As a doctor and an Olympic shooting athlete, Galiabovitch also knows how to juggle her medical career and ongoing studies with her time on the pistol range. With COVID-19 throwing an unforeseen curve ball at the beginning of the year, all plans for the year have been erased and re-drawn.

“There hasn’t been a single plan that I have for this year that I haven’t had to re-think,” she said.

But Galiabovitch is used to adapting and re-adapting to suit the circumstance. While studying for a  master’s degree and undertaking research work in her goal to become a urological surgeon, she has been working as a locum at Monash Health hospitals in Melbourne.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games by 12 months has seen all domestic and international shooting competitions cancelled and new schedules are yet to be developed.

Despite these obstacles, Galiabovitch remains upbeat saying, “Everyone has had to make their own adjustments. This year has been a lot of adjusting, changing and adapting. That’s fine. You find your way eventually.”

Even though her father, Vladimir was a world renown pistol coach, shooting didn’t truly find its way into her life until 2014. As a teenager, Galiabovitch wasn’t serious about shooting.” It felt like a chore to me. There were other things that I wanted to do,” she explained.

But in the lead-up to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Galiabovitch decided to attend various competitions around the country and performed strongly. Intrigued, she decided to review the Games selection criteria and saw how close she was to meeting team qualification. Suddenly, the competitive fire was lit.

“I wanted to be selected on these teams. It was a different mindset to what I had participated in shooting before when I was a teenager,” she said.

Two years later, Galiabovitch was selected on the Australian Olympic team for the 2016 Rio Olympics where she competed in the 10m Air Pistol and 25m Sports Pistol.

Her international shooting career continued at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where she claimed the silver medal in the 25m Sports Pistol and the bronze in the 10m Air Pistol.

Days later, and despite yearning for a long overdue break, Galiabovitch decided “begrudgingly” to use the intensive 13-week build-up to the Gold Coast Games and head to the World Cup event in Changwon in Korea and was rewarded with the 25m Sports Pistol gold medal when shooting a personal best score of 583.

Despite the long hours and the hectic and often unpredictable workload as a doctor, Galiabovitch has continued training as an elite athlete as she finds it positively counterbalances her medical career. She is also aware that many medical professionals face mental health challenges because of the emotional nature of their life-saving work, and that medicine can become all consuming.

“Sometimes having an extra perspective, or something else in your life, is really helpful to be a balancing factor so you don’t go stir crazy,” she said.

“I feel it (shooting) gives me something extra in life, something else to focus on. It’s quite a selfish reason why I do it. I obviously feel a great honour and I’m so lucky to represent Australia and that’s a wonderful feeling. But I’ve worked really hard for that as well. It hasn’t been handed to me on a platter,” she said.

Galiabovitch loves her work as a doctor.

“It’s actually a real privilege for people to let you into their lives. It’s not very common to go up to a person and ask them a really personal question without ever having met them before or expect them to respond and give you an honest answer.

“There is a privilege and a trust which goes with that relationship. I really enjoy being able to contribute during a stage of someone’s life where they’re not well. I don’t remember the names of all the patients that I have told they have cancer or have had a bad diagnosis, but they will remember me for the rest of their lives. I try to make a difference in that way and at least give them something at that moment that is helpful,” she added.

Galiabovitch sees many similarities between her work as a doctor and her athletic career as a world class pistol athlete. As a doctor, she partners with fellow doctors, nurses and a range of other medical professionals in seeking positive patient outcomes. As a shooter, she is working with coaches, strength and conditioning experts, dieticians and psychologists to excel on the range.

She also believes there are many transferable

skills between medicine and elite sport and considers shooting to have a different pressure.

“I believe things that I have achieved in sport, and the way that I’ve got there, have really helped me as a doctor and really helped me in medicine,” she said.

“I take lessons from shooting into the workplace. The pressures (on the range) are very different but resilience and ability to cope are transferrable. In the workplace I feel quite certain about my knowledge and I know what I don’t know, and there are other people around to help if you don’t know. I’m still in training and I’m not expected to know everything, or what to do in every circumstance. There are other people there who you can rely on for help. On the (shooting) line, I am the only one responsible,” she said.

With her dad, Vladimir, the National and Olympic team pistol coach, Galiabovitch knows he has a high level of understanding of her ambitions as she aims to advance her medical career while targeting the Tokyo Olympics. And, like all father-daughter coach-athlete combinations, clear boundaries must be set. Thankfully, her mum Victoria and older sister Eugenia, haven’t been forced to play referee!

“We’ve got better with our communication over the years, just expressing our opinions to each other and listening to each other. It’s a two-way street and I’ve got to play my part in that as well. I feel like I am becoming more prepared. I am taking more responsibility with the planning of things and being more accountable for my actions,” she said.

“When I was younger, I’d just look at his side of it rather than what I can do. But we’re all adults now. We respect each other’s time. I don’t want to intrude on his out of work time and I also try to set that boundary for myself.”

With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to July next year and COVID-19 closing ranges, Galiabovitch has been working closely with the Victorian Institute of Sport’s strength and conditioning staff, swimming twice a week and running on a treadmill while watching one of her favourite TV shows, MasterChef.

While shooting is a sport which allows participants to keep performing at the highest international level for several decades, Galiabovitch has no clear immediate competition plans beyond the 25m Sports Pistol event at the Tokyo Olympics, but retirement isn’t a consideration.

However, advancing her medical career will be the higher priority.

“Medicine is very important to me. I don’t see myself being a shooter when I’m 65, but I’d really like to keep being a surgeon until that age. It’s what I hope to do for the rest of my life,” she said.


Forget the tracksuit, I want gold says big Dan

By Greg Campbell

As we entered the new millennium, Dan Repacholi was a precocious, fun-loving 17-year old young buck who was ranked Australia’s number one pistol shooter.

The countdown to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games was gathering pace and Repacholi hopped on a plane and headed to World Cup competitions in Milan and Munich trying to shoot a 565 qualification score to win Australian Olympic team selection.

But the pressure of the situation and being in foreign countries saw his Sydney 2000 Olympic dream explode and he was forced to watch David Moore, David Porter and David Chapman in action at the Games.

“It was an easy score to achieve,” recalled Repacholi. “I let an opportunity go past.”

Disappointed, Repacholi returned home and was then delivered a confronting opinion from an unnamed coach which still rings loud in his ears today.

“I was told I wouldn’t make an Olympic Games team, and I pretty much went on to prove them wrong and show that I can do it,” he said.

“I don’t know why they said it, and I never asked. I don’t know if they were trying a bit of reverse psychology.”

If it was reverse psychology, it certainly worked as Repacholi will line-up for his fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo next year surpassing four-time Australian pistol Olympians, Lalita Yauhleuskaya and Phillip Adams.

As painful missing selection for Sydney 2000 was for Repacholi, he now admits it was a blessing in disguise as his sporting career ambition would have been done and dusted if selected.

“In hindsight, it was the best thing that ever happened because if I made that Olympic Games team, I reckon that it would have been my only Olympics,” he said.

Despite attending four Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, Repacholi’s ambitions remains restlessly unfulfilled.

“It’s been a great time. I’ve loved every Olympic Games. Everyone has been different. Unfortunately, I haven’t gone and achieved what I wanted to achieve yet, and that’s coming home with an Olympic Games gold medal. But Tokyo is coming up and I will be giving every bit I can to go there and win,” he said.

“I don’t want to be remembered as a five-time Olympian. I want to be remembered as someone who has gone to an Olympic Games and won a gold medal.

“The number of Games is irrelevant because I haven’t achieved what I want to achieve yet. I’ve got enough tracksuits,” he says forthrightly.

“I’m not finished. I want to go on and win at an Olympic Games and finish with a score and say, ‘ that was me, that was a really good score’,” he said.

His renewed drive comes after twice retiring from the sport.

After the London Olympics, he and his wife Alex gave birth to their first daughter, Zoe, and he decided to down the pistol.

But in the lead-up to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Alex convinced him to return to the sport and he responded by winning the gold medal in the 10m Air Pistol and a bronze in the 50m Air Pistol.

The Rio Olympics came and went, and he then focused on the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

He knew how special a home Games was after winning a gold medal in the 50m Pairs and a bronze in the 10m Pairs in front of family and friends at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

But the Gold Coast Games were extra special. Alex, Zoe and his second daughter, Asha, were in the stand watching and, after finishing fourth in the 10m Air Pistol, Repacholi was a decisive winner of the 50m Air Pistol.

“Gold Coast topped it for sure. The best. To do it in front of my wife and two little girls, that was an amazing thing,” he said.

Repacholi retired again after the Gold Coast Games to spend more time with his growing family, but again Alex and his girls stepped in and urged him to aim for Tokyo.

“It was one of the best things I did because now my kids can come and see me shoot,” he said.

 

And he keeps his girls involved when competing. Renown for wearing rainbow coloured socks in competition, his girls now select what socks he is to wear.

Off a limited preparation, he secured a Minimum Quota Score in the 10m Air Pistol at the Oceania Championship last November, and then topped the nomination trials earlier this year to book his ticket for Tokyo.

“I’m not finished until my wife tells me to now,” he says with a grin. “When she says that I can’t do it anymore and that I must be a proper husband and a proper father, like most fathers who stay at home and do everything with their kids and wife. When she tells me that, then it’s all over unless I decide I will pull the pin a little earlier and say I’ve had enough. But there’s still a lot I want to achieve.”

At the nomination trials, he was locked into a close contest with Bailey Groves before managing a seven shot victory, but he knows he is capable of much more.

“I didn’t perform to the level that I know I could have, and the level that I was ready to be shooting. It was good enough to get through, but nowhere good enough for what I need to be doing,” he said honestly.

In 2016, the six Rio Olympic finalists reached the final with a qualification score of 580 and higher from a possible 600 points. A score of over 580 will be the required target to reach the final in Tokyo. With a personal best score of 587, he knows he is certainly capable.

“To be comfortable, I need to be shooting mid-580s. If I can be shooting that, then I know I will be in the right form and going in the right direction.

“As long as I can shoot around that level in the mid-580s, then I will be in the right area and I will give myself a really good chance to make that final. I’ve got to get in the right mental frame to be able to get that happening on a consistent basis. In finals, I shoot well. I enjoy them. I like the format of a final,” he added.

To prepare for Tokyo, Repacholi has set up a 10m indoor pistol range in a warehouse at Double R Equipment Repairs, where he works, in Rutherford in NSW’s Hunter Valley and trains before and after work.

“I quite enjoy it to be honest. It’s a good time to be on your own and think.  It’s just you, a target and a gun. That’s all there is. There’s nothing else,” he said.

Apart from firing shots on his range, Repacholi is looking to lose weight, go back to shooting basics and spend considerable time getting himself mentally ready for Tokyo. He says technically he can match it with the best in the world but need to improve between his ears.

“My whole shot process takes about 35 seconds from when I start it to when I finish it. So, I’ve only got to concentrate for that 35 seconds.”

Given his lack of high level preparation leading into the Olympic nomination trials, Repacholi is delighted the Tokyo Games have been postponed by 12 months and believes a combination of selection certainty and long-form training and competition will have the Australian team poised to produce strong results.

“I think it’s a really good thing for us. I reckon we are going to have some fantastic results because we’re going to have this time to mentally prepare ourselves. Physically, everyone in this shooting team can win. It’s just whether we can control ourselves mentally. That’s what wins it all,” he said.

Shooting at a top international level spanning more than two decades, Repacholi estimates it has cost him up to $1 million.

“Any sport you do at a high level is expensive with all your travel, all your training commitments. From out of pocket expenses, unpaid leave, missing out on work, it wouldn’t be far from it ($1 million),” he said.

But Repacholi wouldn’t change a thing after competing for over two decades on the world stage.

And with his steely focus on the medal dais in Tokyo, it has been a great investment for a gentle bearded giant who was told he’d never make it.


Minor variation to the Australian International Shooting Limited (Shooting Australia) Anti-doping Policy to recognise the replacement of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority by Sport Integrity Australia from 1 July 2020.

From 1 July 2020 the Shooting Australia Anti-doping Policy is varied as follows:

Any and all references to the:

  • Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) are to be read as references to Sport Integrity Australia;
  • Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006 (Cth) (ASADA Act) are to be read as references to the Sport Integrity Australia Act 2020 (Cth); and
  • Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Regulations 2006 (Cth) (ASADA Regulations) are to be read as references to the Sport Integrity Australia Regulations 2020 (Cth).

If you have any questions about the above please feel free to contact the team at Shooting Australia at [email protected]


Proven gun more than a sentimental choice 

by Greg Campbell 

Could you imagine Lewis Hamilton driving a 14year old Mercedes Formula One racing car, or Tiger Woods using a decade-old driver? What about a Tokyo Olympian using 14year old shotgun which has fired over 200,000 rounds at clay targets over its life span? 

Trap shooter Thomas Grice will be headed to his first Olympic Games in Tokyo next year and there is every possibility his trusty 14-year old Beretta 682 shotgun will be his firearm of choice when he takes on the world’s best. 

Apart from being the gun which saw him earn Tokyo Olympic selection alongside James Willett, there is a high degree of emotional sentiment attached to his gun. 

Grice’s grandfather, Frank Gould, was the man responsible for introducing him to shooting when he was first eligible to receive a shooting permit when aged 12. 

For the first two years, Grice would use his mother’s shotgun, but that soon changed. 

“He set mum’s gun up to suit me and when it became apparent that I was going to stick at it for a while and keep going to the range, he said you’ve got to have your own gun that’s got to be set up to fit you properly,” said Grice. 

True to his word, Gould purchased the Beretta 682 – the same gun used by his mum  and he could hardly contain his excitement when it was presented to him. 

“It was a great day. It was the same gun as what I’d been shooting for a couple of years. But to be able to say it was mine, and it was set up to suit just me, is what every kid dreams of,” said Grice. 

Having two younger brothers as well, this was something I didn’t have to share,” he added with a laugh. 

He’s (Gould) been my best supporter by far. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. 

Complicating his gun of choice at Tokyo next year is the recent arrival of Beretta DT11 Black which he earned 

when claiming the High Gun prize at the Beretta Cup championship in Lonato, Italy last year. 

But following the closure of his home range at the Sydney International Shooting Centre because of COVID-19 and upgrades to the trap rangethe Cobbitty local has yet to fire a shot with his new gun. 

“I’ve mounted with it 8,000 times but it’s still sitting in my gun safe. If it’s not up to scratch, I will be back with the old girl for sure,” he said. 

Once live firing resumes at SISC, Grice intends to spend a weekend testing the gun to see if it will improve his shooting accuracy, but he remains unsure whether he will use the upgraded version in Tokyo. 

Fifty per cent of the people out there will tell you that you have to have the latest and greatest, and the fifty per cent of other people will tell you its how it fits you and having some talent and just putting it into the right place every time. It’s hard to argue against that. If you put the gun in the right place, it doesn’t matter what gun you are shooting, he said. 

Grice was forced to endure a nail-biting Olympic nomination series before finally getting the welcome phone call from National Shotgun Coach, Richard Sammon, that he would be nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection in Tokyo.  

“I was driving and had the phone on Bluetooth when he called. I nearly fell out the car door. I was smacking the side of the door that hard I was that happy. I nearly broke the window,” he said with a laugh. 

Going into the fourth and final nomination event at SISC, Grice held a narrow two-point lead over 2016 Rio Olympian, Mitch Iles, for the second position behind runaway leader, James Willett – but not that he knew the precise margin. 

“I very purposely had not done the maths. I knew I was in front, but by how many I didn’t know. I knew it wasn’t all that many. I figured if I don’t miss, he can’t catch me,” he said. 

Because of the growing coronavirus concerns and that fact that he and Iles were the only athletes capable of capturing the second men’s trap positionthey were the only shooters entered for the final event meaning that it was effectively a two-man shoot-off. 

“It was strange, but I was there to do a job and I did a decent job of not letting too much rattle me. I thought I had four targets on him going into the event, but it turned out that I only had two,” he said. 

So, with a few targets to go in that last event, I thought I was in. I thought I had the second spot nailed down and I thought he can’t catch me here. Then I missed another one late in that last round and then went through clean from there and walked away at the end to find out I had him by two. That was tight. 

‘It’s hard to think that after 500 targets it would come down to one target,” he added. 

Winning Olympic selection was Grice’s goal and he admits he has relied on hard work throughout his career, rather than natural ability, to attain his dream. 

He has represented Australia on the international shooting circuit since he and younger brother James won selection to attend the 2012 Junior World Cup. 

He went close to winning selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics, but the trap places were ultimately claimed by Adam Vella and Iles. “It proved to me that I was capable of it, he said. 

Games selection ultimately came his way at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, but one poor round saw him finish out of medal contention.  

“But I’ve made vast improvements since then. I’m a far better shooter now than I was then. It was good experience, good exposure and hopefully it will hold me in good stead going into the Olympics. 

It was a great event, good fun and to be part of a home Games was just amazing. To see the support for shooting, which is so often reviled and gets dragged through the mud in the media, and to have a stand of people cheering for shooting, was excellent,” he added. 

But a home Games can prove to be a distraction with family and friends part of a raucous crowd. 

“I thought leading in I was doing a pretty good job of being able to distance myself from that and just focus on my shooting. But I don’t think I really did, looking back. It was good experience and I can certainly build from that. 

While Grice hasn’t fired a shot since the final Olympic nomination event in March, he has reviewed his training regime and has added more fitness work into his Tokyo Games preparation program, particularly with the purchase of a rowing machine and extra gym work. 

“While there’s some excellent shooters that are very obviously not all that physically fit, I think it’s a great help to be far fitter, so I am working on my fitness a lot more than I ever have in the past. Hopefully, that’s going to put me in good stead going into the future. 

Additionally, through his association with the NSW Institute of Sport, he is working with a dietician and intends to utilise its physio services when he returns to firing at 300 targets a week in training. 

Apart from his individual event in Tokyo, Grice will compete in the Mixed Pairs where he’s likely to be partnered with Victorian, Penny Smith. 

The pair won the inaugural Mixed Pairs world title in 2017 and were bronze medallists behind team-mates Willett and Laetisha Scanlan at last year’s World Championship. 

When he goes to Tokyo, he knows anything is possible and fondly recalls the jaw-dropping Winter Olympic Games victory of Steven Bradbury. 

“To finish first, first you must finish,” he said 

And watching proudly will be his Pop, who will be aged 90 by the Games. 

“It would be nice to come home with a bit of silverware for him,” he said.  


Tokyo Olympics? She’ll be apples

By Greg Campbell

Picking and packing apples alongside her dad in a Tynong orchard, 66 kilometres south east from Melbourne’s CBD, is not where you would expect to find a three-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist preparing for her second Olympic Games

But for Australian Olympic women’s trap shooter, Laetisha Scanlan, it’s all part of her plan to rise to the medal podium at the Tokyo Olympics. With the Olympics postponed by 12 months, the closest Scanlan will get to Japan at present is via a fuji apple, named after Japan’s sacred mountain, Mount Fuji.

Apple picking became a necessity after her part-time job at a dry cleaning business in Seddon was suspended because of COVID-19. Afterall, there is a mortgage to pay after she and her partner Sam Waters bought a three bedroom home in Emerald earlier this month.

But part-time work, either picking apples or operating the dry cleaning front desk, has become part of her life to ensure that trap shooting doesn’t become all-consuming.

Scanlan has also been assisting Olympians Russell and Lauryn Mark with their corporate shooting business but has reduced her hours after recognising there was no escape from the sport having to be at the shooting range when she wasn’t training or competing.

“I realised, at the start of last year, that I needed more balance in my life so it wasn’t so shooting orientated. And I think the perfect thing to do was to have a part-time job that has no relationship with the sport so you can switch off for a bit. I think it keeps you more mentally fresh rather than thinking about shooting 24/7,” she explained.

“It’s one of those sports where it gives you the most amazing opportunities to travel and see the world and compete at an elite level. But I think I realised after Rio, that I needed a little more balance,” she added.

Even now with social restrictions being eased and ranges opening for use, Scanlan is taking a slow run-up to the Tokyo Games next year to ensure she peaks at the right time and not burn out prior to the competition.

With 13 years of international experience, both as a senior and junior trap athlete, Scanlan knows what it will take to reach her pinnacle goal of an Olympic gold medal.

But shooting is a fickle precision sport where the same six finalists could shoot three events on the same day and produce a string of different winners.

“Sometimes, it’s just one target,” she says knowingly after personally experiencing the impact of one shot.

Having won a gold medal with Stacey Roiall in the women’s pairs at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and winning her first ever World Cup gold medals in 2013 and 2014, Scanlan attended the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and thought she was eliminated at the end of the qualifying rounds until Canadian Susan Natrass capitulated at the end of her final 25 targets.

Scanlan qualified for the final after a shoot-off against India’s Shreyasi Singh before winning the semi-final round and then the gold medal match.

“I went in there thinking I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m going to give it my all and, being the underdog, I managed to win the final,” she said.

Then, four years later at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Scanlan had to survive another qualifying round shoot-off against New Zealand’s Natalie Rooney to reach the final.

In the final, which doubled as her 28th birthday, Scanlan opened a healthy three target lead but it evaporated in the second half of the 50-shot final as Northern Ireland’s Kirsty Barr levelled the scores with Scanlan needing to hit her last target to win.

When the target exploded in a cloud of pink, Scanlan celebrated with a triple fist-pump while “Team Teash” roared and celebrated wildly in the grandstand.

“The pressure was indescribable. To have all my friends and family there and to be shooting off against a good friend in Nat Rooney, the New Zealander, I just felt sick,” she recalled.

“I was so glad I won, not so much for me as an individual, but probably more for my family and friends because I felt like I had the weight of the world on me and I’m glad when it counted that I could perform and give that to them,” she said.

While Scanlan has been a top line international trap athlete for over 10 years, the course of her life could have taken a very different direction after competing at her first international championship as a junior in 2007 while in Year 12 at Haileybury College in Keysborough.

“I came dead last. It was probably the best thing that could ever happened to me. It made me work harder and I guess lit a fire to do better. If I’d given up and said it was too hard, then I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.

She stuck at it and captured her first senior World Cup title in 2013 in Al Ain.

“It proved to myself that I was capable and worthy of being on the team. That started a really exciting journey for me because I had my own self-belief,” she said.

Her journey took her to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she was the top qualifier but finished fifth behind her gold-medal winning Australian team-mate, Catherine Skinner. “I just didn’t perform high enough to get myself into the medal opportunities,” she said.

This year’s Tokyo Olympic selection trials was always going to be a high pressure event with Skinner, Scanlan and fellow Victorian Penny Smith contesting the two available selection positions.

Smith’s consistency earned her the automatic team selection position leaving Scanlan and Skinner duelling for the single remaining spot

“Going into the last selection event I knew it was going to be tough. We have such depth in our women trap shooters. It’s never going to be an easy run. It’s never ever going to be a free card into the Olympic team. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I’ve learned that’s probably not the best thing to do,” she said.

“I’m so grateful that the selectors have chosen me and given me the opportunity to go to Tokyo, and I really hope that I can perform at my best because I know my best is medal worthy,” she added.

“Penny shot an amazing selection series and all credit goes to her. She definitely deserved the first spot. She made that a very, very easy decision. But the second spot was always going to be difficult and always going to be at the discretion of a panel.”

The Tokyo Olympics also sees the introduction of the Mixed Pairs where she is likely to be partnered with James Willett, while Smith is destined to be shooting alongside NSW’s Tom Grice.

“I’ve always been jealous of the swimmers that have so many opportunities to compete at the Olympics. And it was so hard going into Rio knowing you had one opportunity and that was it for the next four years,” she said.

“It’s (the mixed pairs) is such a great opportunity for us as Australians to win medals. Penny and Gricey and myself and James, we’re world class. We’ve both won world championships, so I think we are all going to go in quite favourable with the other teams.”

Scanlan says the postponement of the Olympics will help her and Willett develop a strong pairs partnership.

“I think chemistry is quite important. In an individual event I don’t really care if anyone hits or misses a target next to me. I do care if James hits or misses a target,” she said.

“As we have shot more together internationally, we kind of know how each other rolls now. We’re very ying and yang. James and I are very different shooters and different personalities but somehow, we gel perfectly together.

And then there is the silent understanding when at the height of competition.

“There’s not a lot of chat (on the range). There is just the look,” she said with a laugh.

Scanlan believes her Rio Games experience will be hugely beneficial for Tokyo.

“I was a baby. I was so fresh, and I went in there quite naïve and it’s taken me three to four years after Rio to realise that I have developed a lot as a shooter and I’ve grown up,” she admitted.

“That’s why I’m looking forward to Tokyo so much now because I know what Rio was, I know how I performed, I know why I did this, and I know why I did that. Now coming into Tokyo, I have so much knowledge and so much experience and I think it can only benefit me positively,” she said.

And hopefully she will be picking off targets as they soar across the Tokyo Olympic range just as easy as plucking apples off a tree.


Exceptions are the rule for Katarina

by Greg Campell

Katarina Kowplos wasn’t supposed to be going to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Kowplos, 18, had split Year 12 at Golden Grove High School across two years, she was enjoying working part-time at the insert department at The Advertiser newspaper in Adelaide, and was aiming to be accepted into an engineering university degree next year.

The 2024 Paris Olympics was her target. Tokyo Olympics? That was supposed to be a TV event where she would happily cheer on the Australian Olympic team.

In reality, Kowplos still had her shooting learner’s plates on at the beginning of the year. In 2018 and 2019, she contested the 10m Air Rifle at Junior World Cup events in Suhl, Germany, and her only international 3 Positions competition was at the Oceania Championship in Sydney last year where she finished 13th as a member of the Australia B team.

But in the space of two events in February and March – the first two 3 Positions rifle Olympic nomination trials – that all quickly changed.

Back to back qualifying scores of 1141 and 1143 points – a personal best performance – saw Kowplos go from an Olympic team outsider to a team selection favourite when she opened a commanding lead on the event nomination scoreboard.

“I was 100 per cent looking towards Paris. I didn’t expect to shoot really well. I just wanted to shoot my best and I was really pleasantly surprised how I competed,” said Kowplos.

“I was trying to keep my excitement (of possible Olympic selection) down because I thought we wouldn’t be having a female 3P shooter for Tokyo. I was excited but was keeping it in,” she said.

She admitted she was shocked when Shooting Australia’s National Rifle Coach, Petr Kurka, telephoned her to notify her of her Olympic team nomination after the four nomination events had concluded.

“I was not expecting it at all. I was pretty stunned. I kept it (her excitement) in until after the phone call and I casually went up to my Mum and said, ‘guess I will have to start training for Tokyo’,” she recalled.

Keeping her Olympic selection a secret from friends until the official Australian Olympic Committee announcement was a challenge. Only her mum and dad, Natalie and Steve, and younger sister Isabella knew.

What makes Kowplos’ Olympic selection even more meritorious is that she achieved her results with a borrowed rifle. More often, rifles are custom made to suit the athlete’s personal preferences. Having to adjust to someone else’s rifle makes a precision sport such as shooting even more difficult.

Shooting Australia’s National Talent Coach, Sydney 2000 Olympian, Carrie Quigley, located the only available left-handed rifle in Adelaide suitable for 3 Positions events and Kowplos immediately applied herself to handle the rifle’s characteristics.

“I don’t think I would have been able to shoot 3P without it because it’s such an investment to shoot 3P,” said Kowplos.

But since her selection for the Tokyo Olympics next year, her grandmother Lyn Violi, has assisted her grand-daughter with the purchase of a new rifle.

While the rifle is sitting securely and unused in her gun safe, she is waiting on the delivery of rifle accessories to complete her custom set.

“I’m looking forward to building up my equipment. With my old one, I couldn’t buy butt plates because they’re not transferrable across rifles. Now that I have one, I’m looking forward to building a really big bucket for finals to change over with,” she said.

 

Her introduction to shooting came via an unusual passage – the Northridge Para Vista Scout Group. “They do a target shooting program. I enjoyed beating scouts that were older than me,” she said with a smile.

When she was not attending jamborees in Maryborough in Queensland or in Cataract Park in NSW, Kowplos would shoot at the SSAA Para Branch range and decided to move to ISSF events in 2015 with the view to hopefully one day win Olympic selection.

While she has limited experience with 3P shooting, the event has quickly become her favourite compared to Air Rifle.

“I think 3P (is my favourite) because a bad shot doesn’t necessarily mean that your entire match is over. You can shoot a nine or an eight and it is just as likely that another competitor could have shot that shot,” she explained.

For Kowplos, the postponement of the Tokyo Games until next year was a “relief”.

“It gives us a lot more extra time to train, especially since I didn’t expect to be shooting 3P internationally this soon. I’m looking forward to be able to hone my skills with the extra time,” she said.

With support from Kurka, Shooting Australia and the South Australian Institute of Sport, Kowplos will focus the next 14 months on mastering her technique across the three shooting positions, including watching YouTube videos while kneeling, and learning how to keep calm and composed while in the hurly burly of an Olympic competition.

Apart from her part-time job and educational journey, Kowplos will continue to attend scouts, when time permits, and participate in the science fair at the Royal Adelaide Show. “I’ve won the last four years in my age group. It’s good to be able to talk about something you love,” she said.

Kowplos has not set any lofty targets for the Tokyo Games. “I’m looking forward to meeting the other athletes from other competitions and shooting my best on the day,” she said.

However, as she has already demonstrated, she has a habit of exceeding expectations and the Tokyo Olympics may not be an exception.



 

Sergei is stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight

Sergei Evglevski’s family is a big name in the world of shooting.

His bloodlines are shooting royalty. He is the son of an Olympic bronze medallist and a six-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and a two-time Australian Olympic team gunsmith. You can find what his mother Lalita Yauhleuskaya and father Sergei Evglevski Snr don’t know about shooting on the back of a postage stamp.

If there was anyone destined to follow them in the world of shooting, then it was a young Sergei. “I was always really interested in it. My parents could tell from a young age,” he said.

As a child he would join his mother on the medal podium at events in Australia and proudly take her medals to school to show off to his mates. Her three gold and one silver medal won at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games earned him special privileges when in primary school.

“I remember having the whole day off as the principal asked me to go to every classroom and pass around the Commonwealth Games medals. That was pretty grouse,” he proudly recalled.

Taking her Sydney 2000 Olympic Games 25m Pistol bronze medal, when representing Belarus, to school took some convincing, but eventually she relented.

Sergei’s own international shooting career commenced in 2015 when competing in the Junior World Cup in Germany. The dye was caste. A year later, he earned Junior World Cup silver and bronze medals in Germany and Azerbaijan. An international shooting career was truly launched.

In 2018, he was a regular on the senior World Cup circuit competing in Germany, Mexico and Korea. As he aimed to carve out his own career, his parents offered some sage advice.

“They told me not to listen to anyone. A lot of the (international) coaches now were shooters with mum,” he said.

“I didn’t realise it was going to be true, but a lot of people would come up to me and say you’re the son of Lalita and Sergei and I hope you shoot as good as them. It would give me that extra pressure. They (my parents) told me to acknowledge it, but don’t pay any attention to it.”

In a rare honour in any field of sport, he and his mother were Australian team-mates at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

It was the last of Lalita’s five Commonwealth Games appearances and Sergei’s first. He won a silver medal in the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol while she was unplaced in the 25m Sports Pistol final. Lalita was bursting with pride as Sergei claimed a podium finish. On this day, Sergei was much more than just a team-mate. He was flesh and blood.

“She was bawling her eyes out. My first thought when she started crying was ‘oh no, I only got a silver medal. That’s why she was crying’. That was my competitive side coming out. But she was crying with joy and being so proud of me,” he said.

“We went to a Channel Seven interview and she couldn’t speak. She was tearing up. She was saying ‘I’m so happy for him.’ It was pretty emotional, and I started tearing up as well.”

Sergei is grateful for his Commonwealth Games experience as it provided him with a high level of understanding of being part of a major, multi-sport competition such as the Olympic Games.

“It definitely prepared me because I was able to dip my toe in the water and now, I can dive in,” he said.

After the Gold Coast Games, Lalita announced her retirement. Forty years of high-level competition led to debilitating elbow and back problems which only firing the chamber for the last time could heal.

Lalita enjoyed a 20-year, five Olympics association – two for Belarus and three for Australia – and Sergei will head to his first Olympics in Tokyo next year. The family’s Olympic handover is now complete, and the Games dynasty is set to continue for decades to come.

Sergei enjoyed a consistent, high-performing Olympic nomination event series registering four consecutive qualifying scores of 580 and over to comfortably secure Australia’s single Rapid Fire Pistol quota position.

He equalled his personal best qualifying score of 584 in the last qualifying event in Sydney – a score which would have been good enough to reach the top six final at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I did perform well, and I was happy with myself. But there’s always so much to improve on. There’s always little things you can do,” he said.

“I feel as though I’ve only done half the job because the goal for me is to perform at the Olympics to the best of my ability. Making the team was a short-term goal, but I so proud of myself because I had the goal to perform under the pressure,” he added.

With over 12 months until the Olympics, Sergei is focusing on training and completing the final three units for his marketing degree at Victoria University.

Assisting him in his Tokyo preparation has been the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) where he has access to strength and conditioning experts, sports psychologists and nutritionists.

The VIS strength program is presently focusing on better posture when shooting and the ability to hold his posture for a longer amount of time.

“If you have an air pistol match for two hours, can you start slouching and your neck can start bending so you want to hold that posture for long periods of time,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Sergei from shooting at his home club, Yarra Pistol Club. But when restrictions are fully lifted, he will be training for 2-3 hours a day under the watchful eye of national pistol coach, Vladimir Galiabovitch.

He realises the standard of the Olympic competition will be high, but he knows he has the talent and technical ability to compete with the world’s best on the biggest international sports stage. He says his biggest challenge will be to be fully mentally focused and to complete a full match without any mistakes or regrets.

However, a medal in Tokyo is not his primary focus.

“The goal I’ve set for myself is to prove to people and the whole shooting world, not just to be Lalita’s son but being my own shooter,” he said.

He is already well down the road to being his own world class shooter and maybe, in years to come, Lalita Yauhleuskaya will be known as Sergei Evglevski’s mother.


Laura navigates career crossroads to realise Olympic goal

Greg Campbell

As a young girl growing up on her family’s property in Busselton, 222 kilometres south of Perth, Laura Coles would idle the hours away riding her Quarterhorse, Lady, and dreaming of becoming an Olympic equestrian rider. Even at such a young age, Coles had developed an inner drive and ambition to excel.

The roadway to success is often littered with potholes and pitfalls, but also with life defining opportunities which can carve out a new, exciting direction.

When she was aged 15, her grandfather, Ray Worthington, gave her dad Glenn a bunch of guns to safely store in his gun safe. Among those was an SKB trap shotgun. Glen decided to attend the local range for a shoot and, soon after, Laura joined him.

“I was awful at it. I was really, really bad,” she recalled. “I had a go at DTL (Down The Line) and I hit three of 25 targets. I think it was the worst I’ve ever seen someone come and start off. But I really liked it. Everyone at the club was very welcoming,” she said.

Regardless of the result, young Laura was hooked and, soon after, she was introduced to skeet shooting. Saddles and stirrups were soon replaced by cartridges and clays.

“I always struggled with DTL. I don’t think I read a target that’s going directly away from me all that well. I much prefer reading a target that’s crossing directly in front of me rather than going away from me,” she explained.

Despite the change of sport, Coles’ Olympic dreams continued to burn away. She had seen her uncle’s cousin, Fabrice Lapierre, climbed through the ranks as one of the world’s best long jumpers to win a bronze medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games before winning selection for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. A gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games followed.

But being based in Western Australia, a state with limited shooting pedigree, was difficult for Coles. The main competitions and expert coaches were, and continue to be, located on the eastern seaboard requiring regular long and expensive travel costs.

Physically, Coles also appears to be at a disadvantage. Standing a mere 1.57m and weighing less than 50kgs, Coles’ tiny physique would be more familiar in silks in the mounting yards of Ascot, Flemington or Royal Randwick racecourses rather than on the shotgun range lugging a four kilogram shotgun and firing off an energy sapping 75 targets at a time under a blazing sun.

But by 2011, Coles had climbed through the ranks and entered the international competition scene when selected to represent Australia at the 2011 Oceania Championships in Sydney where she won the silver medal. Further World Cup meets followed in Sydney and Maribor in Slovenia plus the World Championship in Belgrade, Serbia.

In 2014, Coles won Australian team selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and captured the gold medal.

“I had a great run into Glasgow. I had a great year in terms of domestic performance, and everything fell into line going on that pathway to Glasgow and obviously I had a great day on the day as well,” she said.

Although she eventually climbed to the top of the dais, self-doubt quickly filled her mind after missing the target with her first shot.

“I thought ‘oh God, here we go’ and I thought I was going to have a terrible day. I decided, you know what, that’s okay. It’s a wonderful thing just to have made a Commonwealth Games and I’m just going to enjoy this and go with it. And from there on in, it was actually a great experience because I just enjoyed it and obviously the results spoke for itself,” she said.

Two years later, Coles was the favourite to win the sole Australian Olympic team skeet quota position for the 2016 Rio Games but was overlooked for Victoria’s Aislin Jones. Shooting Australia had adopted a “sole discretion” selection policy at that time and a shattered Coles unsuccessfully appealed her non-selection.

With her Olympic dreams in tatters, Coles’ career was at the crossroads. Should she continue to shoot, or unload the shells and walk away?

She didn’t want to live with any regrets, so she dusted herself off and won selection for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games but didn’t qualify for the final.

“I never wanted my disappointments or my lows to define my career,” she said. “If I was to stop shooting, I would want to stop it for the right reasons. I didn’t want to look back and think what if I kept going, could I have done this. That’s why I kept going.”

“It took me quite a few years to get over that (Rio) disappointment. I don’t think I was quite over it by the time of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. I think that really showed in my performance,” she added.

For the Tokyo Olympics, Shooting Australia’s selection policy changed where the athlete who topped the four-event nomination series would be automatically nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection.

“When I first saw that criteria, in some ways I was incredibly relieved and in others I felt a lot of pressure. There was really nothing to hide behind. You either had to be the highest scorer or you weren’t going,” she said.

“I was incredibly nervous throughout the series. I remember having problems sleeping, I remember having bad dreams about missing targets, I think I nearly threw myself out of bed trying to hit targets in my sleep, so I definitely felt the pressure. The pressure was on the whole way through right up until the very last shot of qualifying.”

Apart from the change of Olympic selection criteria, there were two other defining moments.

Her training partner, Nick Melanko, took on a coaching role and is now her fiancé and they are to be married in November.

“He’s my coach. He’s my rock. He has been really a pillar of strength for me and I think he’s made such a big difference with my performance. He’s the massage therapist, he’s the psychologist, he’s the shoulder to cry on – everything wrapped up in the one person,” she said.

The other key step was the manufacturing of her custom-made Perazzi gun to suit her size.

“For the majority of people, an off the shelf gun might suit them fairly well because they’re made for the average person. But I am not the average person and the average gun doesn’t suit me.

“It’s light enough for me to handle, it recoils very little. Without that piece of equipment, I don’t think I could perform as well as I have,” she said.

The enforced COVID-19 break from shooting has seen Coles itching to return to the range. Apart from shooting being her sport, her Hot Shots Shooting business in Whiteman Park in Perth is also her occupation.

“It’s lot of fun being able to introduce people to a sport that I love. I think it taught me a lot about shooting and the way that we learn and our psychology when it comes to executing that type of skill,” she said.

Now, with social restrictions gradually being lifted and her mind at ease following her Tokyo selection, life is slowly returning to normal and a little girl’s Olympic dreams are now just 14 months away from being fully realised.


Australia’s leading shooting athletes have highlighted the importance of studying or having a career in series of videos to celebrate Careers Week.

Athletes, including Tokyo Olympic Games representatives Elena Galiabovitch, Penny Smith, James Willett, Sergei Evglevski, Dane Sampson and para sports rifle athlete, Glen McMurtrie, discuss the importance of a work/life balance and how careers and study can assist them in competition.

Pistol athlete, Galiabovitch, a qualified doctor who is undertaking further studies to specialise as a urologist, says sacrifices must be made to excel at work and in sport.

“You do have to realise that there will be some things you will miss out on and you do have to make sacrifices, prioritise certain things at different times. It’s one of the things that I have learned over the past five years,” said Galiabovitch.

“You need to think about what you are passionate about and what you really want to do, and once you actually know what your goal is, it actually makes it easier to work towards it,” she added.

Smith, who works at a local pool and assist her parents on the family farm, says work has helped her become a better athlete.

“I think having a career or passion outside of shooting is important. It certainly is for me. It helps me get a better understanding of myself and also of my sport. It gives you something else to look forward to as well,” said Smith.

Sampson, who will attend his fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo, feels invigorated working as a furniture maker.

“If your mind is always on your sport, then you can burn out very quickly and tire out mentally,” he says.

McMurtrie turned to TAFE teaching after a serious motor bike accident in 2019 and knows the importance of a career.

“I think its beneficial to have a career or study outside of sport because they balance each other out. If you are having a particularly bad time with one of them, chances are you are going really well in the other,” he said.

To hear their stories and the stories of other Australian team representatives, go to www.epicentre.tv/shooting-australia

Further information,
Greg Campbell
PRISM Strategic Communications
Ph: 0418 239 139.