Tokyo Olympic Games women’s Skeet representative, Laura Coles, was rewarded for her east coast training visit when capturing the gold medal at the NSW ISSF Shotgun State titles at the Newcastle Lake Macquarie Clay Target Club today.

The Perth based Coles has spent recent weeks training in Victoria and NSW as part of her preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games in July.

In Newcastle, Coles overcame the difficult conditions to hit 50 from 60 targets in the final to defeat South Australia’s Bridget McKinnon (40/60) and NSW’s Suzy Balogh (32/60).

It was a confidence boosting performance from Coles who has been unable to travel to the eastern seaboard to compete until recently because of COVID-19 border restrictions.

In the women’s Trap final, Victorian teenager Kiara Dean caused a boilover when snaring the gold medal ahead of Tokyo Olympic Games team members Laetisha Scanlan and Penny Smith.

Dean, the 19-year-old National Pathways Squad member, held her nerve in the final stages to down 40/50 targets when beating 2016 Rio Olympian, Scanlan (39/50), and Smith (30/50).

Dean, from Echuca, held a healthy four target lead at the half-way mark of the final and had to withstand Scanlan’s late pressure to claim victory.

Dean’s victory strengthens her bid for Australian team selection for the ISSF Junior World Championships scheduled for Peru in September and October.

Another Victorian, Mitch Iles backed up his recent victory at the Yarra Valley Grand Prix when winning the men’s Trap.

The 2016 Rio Olympian shot a brilliant 45/50 targets to comfortably defeat Tokyo Olympic team member, Thomas Grice (37/50) and Gabriel Sensi (31/50).

In men’s Skeet, NSW’s Joshua Bell (53/60) shot a perfect final round of 10 targets to defeat Elie Lahoud (50/60) and Newcastle Lake Macquarie Clay Target Club member, Frank Morris (40/60).

South Australians Tori and Jack Rossiter made it a family winning double when they won their respective women’s and men’s 10m Air Rifle finals on day two of the Target Rifle Australia National Championships at the Shepparton Small Bore and Air Rifle Club.

South Australia’s Katarina Kowplos held a 0.5 point lead going into the final two targets, but Rossiter managed 20.9 points compared to Kowplos’ 19.9 points to leap-frog to the gold medal victory.

Rossiter finished with 247.6 points with Kowplos (247.1 points) and Victoria’s Elise Collier (224.3 points) completing the podium.

It was another impressive performance by Rossiter who was the top ranked finalist after scoring 628.8 in the qualification round – 3.6 points clear of Collier.

Jack Rossiter captured his second gold medal of the Championship when he was too consistent in the men’s 10m Air Rifle final.

A day after winning the 50m Rifle Three Positions gold medal, Rossiter (250.2 points), overcame a strong performance from Victoria’s Michael Davis (249.7 points) and Queensland’s Dane Sampson (228.2 points).s

Rossiter sealed his victory scoring 21.3 with his final two shots while Davis managed 20.3 points.

South Australia’s Jack Rossiter snapped Dane Sampson’s 50m Rifle Three Positions winning streak when capturing the Target Rifle Australia National title at the Shepparton Small Bore and Air Rifle Club today.

Sampson had won all four 50m Rifle Three Positions events to date in the 2021 Performance Series until Rossiter, his fellow Tokyo Olympic team-mate, climbed above the Queenslander in today’s final.

Rossiter tallied 458.1 points to outpoint Sampson (456.3 points) and claim the gold medal, with Victoria’s Michael Davis (442.5 points) earning the bronze medal.

Sampson held a slender 0.6 point lead with three shots remaining, but Rossiter shot brilliantly peeling off impressive scores of 10.5 and 10.4 before placing an exclamation mark on his victory with a perfect last shot of 10.9.

Rossiter entered the final on a positive note after topping the qualification round with a season best score of 1166 points – three points higher than Sampson (1163 points) and four ahead of Davis (1162 points).

The final was a mixed gender event after the morning men’s and women’s qualification rounds.

In the women’s qualifying event, Tori Rossiter (1154 points) narrowly eclipsed Victoria’s Elise Collier (1153 points) and South Australia’s Katarina Kowplos (1136 points).

The Championships will continue tomorrow with the men’s and women’s 10m Air Rifle events.

Victoria’s Penny Smith demonstrated she will be a major force in the women’s Trap at the Tokyo Olympic Games in July after an outstanding gold medal winning performance at the Yarra Valley Grand Prix today.

Smith (43 from 50 targets) scored a comfortable five target victory over her Tokyo Olympic Games team-mate, Laetisha Scanlan (38/50), with rising 20-year-old Alexis Preston (28/40) completing the podium placings.

Smith, who topped the Olympic nomination trials last year, held a slender one target lead going into the final 10 targets and was faultless with her final 10 shots to close the door on any late fightback from Scanlan.

It was Smith’s second gold medal of the weekend when she combined with fellow Tokyo Olympic Games team-mate Thomas Grice, to win the mixed Trap Pairs last Friday.

In the men’s Trap final, Victoria’s Mitch Iles upstaged Tokyo Olympic Games team members, James Willett and Grice, to claim the gold medal.

Qualifying second for the final behind Willett, Iles downed 43 of 50 targets in the final to overcome Grice (41/50) with Willett earning the bronze (32/40).

Iles, who represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, narrowly missed earning one of two men’s Trap quotas for the Tokyo Games during the Olympic Games nomination events last year.

In the women’s Skeet final, Tokyo Olympic team member Laura Coles had to withstand a strong challenge from Victoria’s Brittany Melbourne to capture the gold medal by one target in a thrilling final.

Melbourne opened a three target lead after the first 20 targets, but WA’s Coles pegged back her lead to level the scores after the completion of 40 and 50 targets.

However, Coles clinched the gold medal with her final shot to finish with 41/60, with Melbourne 40/60 and Bridget McKinnon 19/50 collecting the silver and bronze medals.

The men’s Skeet final saw Newcastle Lake Macquarie Clay Target Club member Frank Morris (49/60) claim victory over Mark Du Rose (44/60) and Josh Bell (35/50).

And Australian Para Shooting representative Scottie Brydon (109/125) was successful in the Para Trap event when beating Nigel Young (91/125) and Matt Tingate (88/125).

On the third and final day of the Adelaide Rifle Grand Prix at the Wingfield Rifle Range today, Elise Collier celebrated a second gold medal when she and fellow Victorian, Michael Davis, were triumphant in the Mixed 10m Air Pistol Pairs.

Victoria’s Elise Collier relied on a cool head and steady hands to produce a last gasp gold medal victory in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle final in the Adelaide Grand Prix at the Wingfield Rifle Range today.

Collier, aged 22, ignored a sore neck as a result of a midweek minor car accident to tally 248.8 points to defeat South Australians Katarina Kowplos (248.0 points) and Alex Hoberg (228.5 points).

In a closely fought final, Collier had to survive a shoot-off with Hoberg to enter the all-women gold medal round against Kowplos.

Kowplos led by a slender 0.4 points going into the final two shots, but Collier jumped to a match-winning lead after firing a near-perfect score of 10.8 while Kowplos managed 8.8.

Collier then fired her lowest score of the final, a 9.5, with her last shot but it was good enough to claim the gold medal by 0.8 points.

The Grand Prix is the first time Collier has competed against her Tokyo Olympic Games team-mates since the outbreak of COVID-19 a year ago.

On the few occasions Collier has competed against other athletes in Melbourne, they were socially distanced but the Adelaide Grand Prix was contested under normal competition settings.

“It was a quite an odd situation having others shooters on your shoulder, but I managed to get use to it,” said Collier.

Collier’s gold medal winning performance today also strengthened her claims to be named in Australia’s Mixed 10m Air Rifle Pairs team when the event is staged for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics in July and August.

Dane Sampson earned his second victory of the Grand Prix when comfortably winning the 50m Prone Rifle event.

Sampson (623.3 points) outclassed Michael Nicholas (614.1 points) and Jack Rossiter (613.2 points).

Queensland’s Dane Sampson recorded his season best 50m Rifle 3 Positions final score to maintain his unbeaten event record in the 2021 Performance Series competition when capturing the gold medal in the Adelaide Grand Prix at Wingfield Rifle Range today.

Sampson, a 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympian, fired 460.7 points in the final to defeat South Australia’s Jack Rossiter (457.0 points) and Victorian Michael Davis (442.4 points) in the mixed gender final.

It was Sampson’s fourth successive 50m Rifle 3 Position win of the season and he now holds a commanding lead on the Performance Series leaderboard with a perfect score of 100 points – 25 points clear of second placed Jack Rossiter.

Sampson entered the final as the top finalist after registering 1164 points in the qualification round, four points clear of Rossiter (1160) with Davis (1157) the third best finalist.

Sampson, a Tokyo Olympic Games team member, opened strongly in the final and was never headed.

The event also saw Victorian, Elise Collier, shooting alongside her Tokyo Olympic Games team-mates for the first time since last year’s Olympic nomination trials.

Collier has been unable to travel from Melbourne to Adelaide to join her Olympic Rifle team-mates since last March because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

In fact, Collier was fortunate to compete today after she and her father were involved in a minor car accident in Melbourne earlier in the week which placed her in doubt to compete this weekend.

Despite the accident, Collier, who will compete in the women’s 10m Air Rifle at the Tokyo Olympics, finished fifth behind Sampson.

Collier is scheduled to contest the Mixed 10m Air Rifle tomorrow alongside Tokyo Olympic Games team-mates Katarina Kowplos, Alex Hoberg, Sampson, and Rossiter.

Petr Kurka’s life has been dedicated to peering through Rifle sights and aiming at small concentric target circles off in the distance.

As the countdown to the Tokyo Olympic Games continues, Kurka is looking down the barrel of attending a remarkable ninth Olympic Games – a tally that could easily have been 10 Olympics if it were not for the boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games by Eastern Bloc countries.

The decorated Kurka attended the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games as a Rifle athlete for his native Czech Republic before coaching its Rifle team at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games.

And after moving to Australia in 2009, Tokyo will be his third Olympics with his adopted country after he accepted an offer as Shooting Australia’s National Rifle Coach following the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Kurka was born into Rifle Shooting. Both his parents were Rifle shooters with his dad, Libor, representing the former Czechoslovakia at a European and World Championships level.

Petr commenced competitive Rifle shooting when aged 15 and two years later, in 1977, he was named in the junior Czechoslovakian national team. He graduated to the senior national team and won selection for the 1983 European Championships where he won the silver medal in the men’s 50m Rifle Prone event.

While he won his first major medal in men’s 50m Rifle Prone, his pet event was the men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions where competitors shoot while laying prone, standing, and kneeling.

“I like the challenging stuff,” said Kurka. “Prone is not easy as it is very, very precise but it’s just one position. 3P is three positions and three different styles of competing and is a long event. It’s the toughest event.”

For most athletes, after they are named in the National Team, it takes around eight years to become highly proficient in 50m Rifle 3 Positions but Kurka had some important advantages – his dad, his time in military service followed by a career as a policeman.

“My father was a pretty good guide. He was a very experienced prone shooter, and he did 3P and Air Rifle as well, along with his job as a carpenter. He finished fourth in the World Championships,” said Kurka.

“My two years in military service was not as tough as it was for others. I had the opportunity to train several times a week and I was also lucky to be able to train with the best and most experienced shooters and coaches of the then Czechoslovakian national team.”

During his 20 years as a member of Police, he said he was rarely on street duties and was able to practice regularly.

Kurka had a major performance breakthrough in 1985 when he broke the 20-year Czech men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions national record becoming the first athlete to break 1170 points.

He extended his personal best score to 1177 points during a competition in the former Yugoslavia in the months prior to the 1986 World Championships in Suhl, then part of East Germany.

“That was a big jump in a relatively short period and that opened the door to everything. From that moment on, I started to think differently. I understood that it is possible to achieve the maximum result for any discipline. Even standing.” recalled Kurka.

With his form reaching new heights, Kurka marched on to clinch the World Championship title by a very slim margin over Great Britain’s Malcolm Cooper, who was the dominant Rifle competitor at the time.

Kurka’s sights were set on the 1988 Seoul Olympics and he was the gold medal favourite after setting a new world record of 1183 points at the Olympic Test event in 1987 and a new final world record of 599 points plus 105.9 points in 50m Prone at the World Cup in Switzerland.

However, Kurka soon experienced the harsh pitfalls of elite sport when placed 32nd in Seoul.

“I was young, and I didn’t manage it. I focused all my efforts on training, because at the time I thought it was the only and best thing for me to do to perform at my best. Everything was just wrong. I shot 1160 and finished 32nd, so I was crying after that, even though I finished 11th in the Air Rifle, which I considered a success” he said.

More World Cup gold medals were won in men’s 50m and men’s 300m events and men’s 10m Air Rifle in the years after Seoul, and he won selection for a second Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 finishing 11th in both the men’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions and men’s 10m Air Rifle.

Then in 1994, Kurka enjoyed an outstanding World Championship in Milan capturing six individual and team medals including a second 50m Rifle 3 Positions world title.

“This was a different title. I was able to perfectly prepare myself technically and mentally, and at the same time I was able to benefit from the lessons of the past years,” said Kurka.

Kurka comfortably won selection for his third Olympics, in Atlanta in 1996, but an Olympic medal eluded him again when finishing 11th in the men’s 10m Air Rifle.

“Obviously, I expected a little bit more from the three Olympics. I definitely expected some final placements than just three 11th placings, a 13th and a 32nd. But I won two World Championships which was excellent satisfaction,” he said.

“It’s not just about the medals. If you do a good job, you feel like all the hard work and all the hours have been paid back to you. You know this in your heart and in your head,” he added.

Kurka had aspirations to compete at Sydney 2000 but he knew deep down that his best performances were behind him.

“In the years before the 1998 World Cup in Barcelona I could not keep my performance at the level at which I wanted to be. I had some success, but I was not consistent. I was not shooting well, and more people were shooting higher scores and I got stuck a little bit. And I think I was a little bit tired after shooting at an elite level for 20 years,” he said.

“After the World Championships in Barcelona, the manager of the Federation said they will change the coach of the national team after the Championships. He said, ‘do you want the position’? And I said, ‘when do I have to decide?’. He said, ‘today’,” Kurka said with a smile.

“I went back to the hotel and I went for a walk and I spoke with my parents and with my wife over the phone. My goal was still to go to Sydney in 2000. Then I said I am tired, and I am not sure how I will do that. And I said I will take the position because I would like to stay with Shooting, and I felt ready to share my experience as a coach and to help other team-mates.” he added.

Kurka led the team at the Sydney Olympics and enjoyed his first taste of Australia when the Czech Republic team contested the Oceania Championships and an Olympic training camp in Sydney in 1999, and he liked what he experienced.

The 2004 Athens Olympics was particularly special for Kurka as his daughter Katerina won selection in the Czech Republic team and captured the first bronze medal of the Games when third in the women’s 10m Air Rifle.

Four years later, the father-daughter combination was united again at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where Katerina won gold and set a new World and Olympic record in the women’s 10m Air Rifle and silver in the women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions.

After the Beijing Games, the Czech Shooting Federation was keen for Kurka to remain as coach, but he wanted to move on.

“They offered me good conditions to stay, and I said no guys, it’s not about the money, it’s about my life,” said Kurka.

“I was looking to go somewhere else and find a challenge. It wasn’t about running from my country because I love my country. But it was about the job and to find something and somewhere else.”

Kurka thoroughly enjoyed Australia and the Sydney Olympics, and he knew it was the country where he and his wife Sarka should settle.

“That was the country. It was really nice, and the people were nice,” he said. “I started looking for jobs anywhere, and I got a couple of offers and then the Australian Shooting Federation came as well.”

By this stage both daughters Katerina and Alena were now adults and married and Kurka and Sarka arrived in Adelaide in 2009 and he has now been Australia’s National Rifle coach for 12 years.

“Without my wife, I would definitely would not have left to live so far from home to work for such a long time. She has been my biggest and most important supporter. I am very glad that she agreed to such a difficult move. We’re both happy down here,” said Kurka.

Kurka is looking forward to his ninth Olympic Games saying, “Every single Games are different. Every single Games gives you something else. They can’t take anything from you, but they can give you something that you can use in your life.”

Apart from 34-year-old Dane Sampson, who will attend his third Olympics in Tokyo, Kurka will lead a very young five-member Australian Olympic Rifle team comprising Alex Hoberg (aged 19), Katarina Kowplos (19), Elise Collier (22) and Jack Rossiter (23).

To overcome the lack of international competition because of travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19, Kurka has successfully arranged several international online Rifle competitions with competitors from Asia and has been pleased with his team’s progress.

“I have a pretty young group and Paris 2024 should be our stronger event,” he said.

“They can do the scores to compete for a medal in Tokyo and our goal is to reach one or two finals. It doesn’t matter if you are first or eighth in qualifying for the final. You are starting from zero, so your chances are open,” he added.

And with eight Olympic Games under his belt, Kurka has the advantage of knowing all about the machinations of Olympic competition and what is possible.

Vladimir Galiabovitch knows the value of patience and persistence.

In today’s fast-moving world where immediate results and instant gratification are so often expected, Galiabovitch is a throw-back to the days where lessons are taught over time and where experience and perseverance is ultimately rewarded.

As Shooting Australia’s Head Pistol Coach and in a sport where precision is measured in millimetres over 10m, 25m and 50m, Galiabovitch is prepared for the long game.

“The most important part for an athlete in any sport is to be patient on their way to success. People who have patience, who love their sport, and who have good supporters are usually successful,” said Galiabovitch.

Galiabovitch knows what he is talking about.

Unlike many eastern European sports coaches such as swimming’s Gennadi Touretski, who were specifically approached to head coaching roles in the 1990’s ahead of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Galiabovitch’s pathway into elite sport in Australia commenced as a result of a medical necessity.

In months following the birth of youngest daughter Elena in 1989, she became unwell.

“We were going all around to find out what was happening and were struggling to find out what was wrong. We decided to go anywhere and do anything possible,” recalled Galiabovitch.

Relatives of Galiabovitch’s wife, Victoria, advised her of immigration opportunities in Australia. Two years after making the nine hour journey to Moscow in the bitter cold and deep snow of November 1992, to lodge an application, the family jetted into Melbourne.

“We finally arrived in June 1994 without any language, without a dollar in our pocket. You could not imagine,” said Galiabovitch.

“At that time there was some financial assistance for our family provided by the Department of Social Security. This greatly assisted us before we got jobs,” he said.

Despite graduating from the Belarussian University with a Master’s Degree in Physical Culture and Sport with a specialisation in Shooting, and a Master’s Degree and Mathematics and Computer Science, finding appropriate employment was difficult.

“I started to do any available work such as a distributor of advertising materials, casual worker at a  plastic factory, a seller on the market, and a cleaner,” he said.

With a long-held passion and expertise for target Pistol shooting, Galiabovitch joined Oakleigh Pistol Club in Melbourne, and later began assisting at Victorian Pistol Association junior training camps before applying to become New Zealand’s national Pistol coach.

“I put a lot of effort into my CV but unfortunately they (New Zealand Shooting Federation) did not invite me for an interview. But, to my knowledge, they asked Shooting Australia who is this person?” he said.

“Then in the beginning of 1995 I was invited to Adelaide for the Pistol national training camp with the top athletes and top coaches of Australia. It was a huge surprise for me,” he added.

With the countdown to the Sydney 2000 Olympics continuing, the Olympic Athletes Program was established and in 1996 Galiabovitch was appointed Elite Pistol Coach.

After the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the Olympic Athletes Program started as a permanent program at the Australian Institute of Sport and coaches and athletes were relocated to Canberra.

Despite Annemarie Forder winning a bronze medal in the 10m Air Pistol, Michael Diamond and Russell Mark winning gold and silver medals in Trap and Double Trap at the Sydney Olympics, the Olympic Athletes Program was suspended after the Games and Galiabovitch was again forced to find alternative work.

“I was very proud of this program and we were successful,” he said.

In 2002, he was working as a Computer Programmer for Telstra when Pistol Australia appointed him National Coaching Council Director and National Development Coach –  roles he held until 2009.

He then worked as Head Pistol coach in Iran, Singapore, and Kuwait before returning to Australia in 2013 to take over as Shooting Australia’s Head Pistol Coach after Anatoly Babushkin stepped down from the role.

“I was very happy to come back home and work for my country. It is a real honour,” he said.

Galiabovitch saw gold medal success at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games where Daniel Repacholi (10m Air Pistol) and David Chapman (25m Rapid Fire Pistol) both won gold medals while Repacholi (50m Pistol) and Lalita Yauhleuskaya (25m Pistol) collected bronze medals.

While Australian Pistol athletes did not rise onto the medal podium at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, it was a special Games for Galiabovitch as his daughter Elena competed in both 10m Air Pistol and 25m Pistol.

Then two years later, he was there when Elena claimed bronze in the 10m Air Pistol and silver in 25m Pistol at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Repacholi celebrated with gold medal success in the men’s 50m Pistol, Kerry Bell earned a silver in the men’s 10m Air Pistol, and Sergei Evglevski was runner-up in 25m Rapid Fire Pistol.

In July, the father-daughter pairing will be in Tokyo for the Olympic Games along with Repacholi, Dina Aspandiyarova who will attend her fourth Olympic Games, while Evglevski, son of Yauhleuskaya, will make his Olympic debut.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with all sport but Galiabovitch believes the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics by 12 months will assist his athletes.

“I think it is very beneficial for our group. We’ve been able to set up a group training environment at training camps,” he said.

The camps have become a necessity as the athletes are unable to travel overseas for pre-Tokyo competitions while international competitions have been limited to online contests.

Galiabovitch would prefer to travel overseas, if it were possible, prior to Tokyo saying; “To have face to face competition is a different story because people need exposure to the environment of being there on the line and shoot around athletes from other countries.”

“I am very happy with my athletes and proud of what they have done in their lives and they have a huge drive to perform at the Olympic Games,” he said.

And driving their ambition is a patient Galiabovitch.

Shooting Australia has received a $141,750 grant from the Australian Institute of Sport to identify and engage a new generation of Para athletes across the pistol and rifle disciplines and provide them with skilled coaching via performance hubs and camps.

The initial two-year grant program covers a three step Pathway Program – Discover, Develop and Deliver.

High Performance Director, Adam Sachs, said the grant will support the identification and development of Para Shooting specific coaches.

“We are immensely grateful for this AIS funding as the grant will support the development and progression of new talent through the Para pathway to the Para National team,” said Mr Sachs.

“We want to ensure sustained success of our Para sports program, capitalise on opportunities for medal success, and build a critical mass of high performing athletes.

“To do this, we will be looking to identify more coaches to lead the establishment and delivery of performance hubs. We will support these selected coaches by upskilling them to increase their awareness of coaching Para athletes,” he added.

Mr Sachs said there is often a significant development time between an athlete taking up the sport and making their international debut.

“If often takes between six to eight years to develop into a competitive Para athlete. However, athletes who have had exposure to other elite level sports before transferring into Shooting can have a shorter development period.

“As a result of this Pathway Program, we believe we can develop a Para athlete cohort that understands what is required to win at pinnacle events and increase the number of coaches around Australia who have the skills to educate and guide the next generation of Para and Able-bodied athletes,” he said.

When Richard Sammon walks into the Olympic Village for the Tokyo Olympic Games in July, he will reflect on two life-changing, sliding door moments which sees him enter as the Australian Olympic Team Shotgun coach.

Growing up in Wangaratta in northern Victoria, Sammon learned how to shoot American Skeet and he enjoyed domestic and international success, winning titles in New Zealand on the eve of his 17th birthday when travelling as part of the Australian Team.

But, like most teenagers in their late teens, life’s priorities soon changed.

“When I got back from that trip, I didn’t shoot a lot. I started playing footy, started chasing girls, finished school and got an apprenticeship. Life kind of got in the way a little bit and I didn’t shoot for nearly 20 years,” he explained.

Enter his son Max.

Although Sammon and his family now lived in suburban Melbourne, his Shooting bloodlines were passed on to young Max.

“He wanted to learn how to shoot, and it was he who brought me back to the sport,” he said.

Sammon was now back shooting competitively at Frankston Gun Club where 2004 Athens Olympic men’s Trap bronze medallist, Adam Vella, was also a member.

After he competed at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Vella was appointed National Shotgun Coach and he asked Sammon if he could assist him in the lead-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, at various World Cup competitions, and at the World Championships in the months to follow.

When Vella decided to step down as National Shotgun Coach at the end of 2018, Sammon had a taste of High Performance sport and relished its enticing flavour.

He decided to apply for the vacant advertised position – a difficult decision to make as he was a Senior Project Manager with major electrical contracting company, Trivantage, where he was responsible for multiple multi-million projects.

“It was not an easy decision, but I am so glad I did. I loved what I was doing (at Trivantage) but I found it (Shooting) an energising environment,” said Sammon.

Ironically, Sammon believes his career as an electrician and Project Manager have fashioned the necessary skills for him to become the National Shotgun Coach.

“It was the skills that I developed in my professional career that have actually led me to this role,” he said.

“Within my business, I’ve lost count of the number of apprentices that I’ve put through. You can’t rush an apprenticeship. You can’t learn it all in your first year. You might think you can, but you can’t,” he explained.

“You’ve got to have that experience and that’s very similar to an athletes journey in their development. Coaching is teaching and you can teach in lots of different spaces, whether it be the works space, or on a sporting field.

“Then there’s the management side of it and that’s one of the skills that I’ve obviously brought through from my business life.

“I used to run multiple multi-million dollar projects that I had to report financially on every month. I had project managers with teams of electricians that reported up through me.

“Having an understanding of how systems work, how organisations function, how to manage stakeholders – all those skills that I’ve learned are readily very transferrable into this domain that I’m in now,” he added.

While the Tokyo Games will be Sammon’s first Olympic experience, he participated in the Olympic nomination selection trails for the 2016 Rio Olympics where Keith Ferguson and Tokyo Olympic team member, Paul Adams, claimed the two available men’s Skeet quota nominations.

In 2018 and 2019, Sammon travelled to contest the New Zealand Skeet Nationals. I2019 he won the High Gun by three shots from fellow Frankston Gun Club member, Mike Buttigieg, and also proudly shared the podium with son Max in the Doubles when placed second with Max winning the bronze medal.

ISSF Skeet Shooting was not on Sammon’s radar when growing up on the family’s 800 acre farm on the Ovens River.

His dad, Brian, was President of the Wangaratta Rovers Australian Football Club, but young Richard was into Shooting through controlling wild foxes and rabbits on the family farm.

“Out the back of the Vine Hotel was the Wangaratta Clay Target Club,” he recalled.

“Dad would be in having a beer and I’d wander out the back and wander around this gun club midweek when nobody was there. I would go and pick up these clay targets and take them home. I’d then get my cousins to throw them up in the air and I’d try and shoot them with my slug gun,” he said.

After starting in Down The Line Shooting, Sammon soon began competing in various Skeet competitions.

“I found Skeet was more akin to the field Shooting that I had done with crossing targets. The thing I loved about Skeet was that you had one shot per target. You either hit it or you missed it. It’s pretty binary in that way,” he said.

Sammon notes there is competitive banter between the Skeet and Trap communities.

“There is always that bit of rivalry between the Skeet and the Trap shooters which is usually fairly healthy. We’re all Shotgun shooters and we shoot clay targets. We share a lot of similarities even though we poke fun at each other,” he said.

Sammon is well aware of Australia’s great Olympic record in Shotgun events and the associated expectations since Michael Diamond and Russell Mark collected the nation’s first Shooting gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

In Tokyo, Sammon will guide a talented six-member Shotgun team aiming for podium finishes despite COVID-19 depriving the athletes of overseas international competition over the past 12 months and through to the Games in July.

Australia will be represented in men’s and women’s Trap by Penny Smith, Laetisha Scanlan, James Willett and Tom Grice, while Laura Coles and Paul Adams will line up in men’s and women’s Skeet

“When we walk onto the range, I will have so much confidence in them,” enthused Sammon.

All six athletes have experienced international success and Sammon knows the group has the ability and capability to perform well.

“We are COVID free and have no problem travelling. We do it all the time,” he said.

“It’s going to take them to find their best performance when it matters. If our athletes bring their best then, generally, that will be good enough. You can’t control what other people do in this sport.

“Our team are consummate professionals in everything they do. That’s the difference, I think, between our team and some of the other teams around the world. They are always asking more of themselves and that’s what going to lead them to their success,” he added.

In addition to his role with National teams, Sammon has been instrumental is help secure the future of the discipline through a grant to establish the Performance Pathway program.

“It’s exciting to think we can start working with athletes deeper in our pathway. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s exciting to think where we can take our sport over the next few years,” he said.

And as Sammon now knows so well, the new opportunities for Shooting can come in many guises.