Thomas Ashmore knows what it’s like to touch, feel and wear an Olympic Games gold medal. Now the Australian Pistol athlete is aiming to win one himself.
Ashmore grew up in Canberra with Olympic modern pentathlon athletes Chloe and Max Esposito who both represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
When Chloe Esposito rocked the sporting world with her gold medal victory at the Rio Olympics, Ashmore was glued to the television while working in a Canberra café when balancing a Business Administration degree at University of Canberra and representing Australia at ISSF Junior World Cup events.
“The café pretty much stopped because I turned on the TV and I was cheering,” recalled Ashmore.
“It was awesome. Having known her and seeing how much work she had put in, and being overseas (training in Hungary) for so long, it was well deserved,” he added.
When Esposito returned home after the Games, Ashmore met up with her and proudly hung the gold medal around his neck.
While he missed selection for this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games after being placed second during the Olympic nomination trials last year behind his close friend, Sergei Evglevski, in the men’s Rapid Fire Pistol event, Ashmore has his sights on the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“It definitely was not the (Olympic nomination) trials I was after. Sergei and I have spoken many times since then and if anyone was to go (to Tokyo) apart from myself, then I’m glad it was him,” said Ashmore.
“Paris is next so I will be going for it. The goal will be to have more than one quota. But if there is only one, I will be working for it,” he added.
Ashmore has been long regarded as a highly talented marksman and the national selectors confidence in him was confirmed last month when he was named in the National Performance Squad.
Ashmore’s Shooting career commenced as a 12-year old after watching his father James compete at the Sporting Shooters Pistol Club in Majura.
At the time, Ashmore was also playing Rugby at St Francis Xavier College and had no intentions of advancing a career in Shooting, but his focus soon changed.
“I was only going to do it (Shooting) as a hobby because I was playing Rugby as well. But it got to the point where I was going to these small local competitions and I was enjoying it, so I thought let’s see what I can do with it,” he said.
Ashmore attended the 2013 Oceania Championships in Sydney where he caught the attention of National Pistol Coach, Vladimir Galiabovitch.
Two years later, the Canberra National Pistol Club member won Australian team selection for the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany, and reached the Rapid Fire Pistol final where he was placed fifth.
“It was the first time I’d put on an Australian uniform. It was great,” he said.
But he quickly realised he was a small fish in a large global pond when it comes to scores.
“I was getting praised in Australia for shooting a (score of) 530. They were saying, he’s the next one and he’s doing amazingly. But the cut off score for a junior was 565, and in the men’s if you don’t shoot over 580, you don’t have a chance,” he said.
“That was an eye-opening aspect. If I really want to do this, you are not going to make a final with a 530 or something like that you could shoot at a state title.”
In 2016, Ashmore attended more Junior World Cup competitions in Suhl and Gabala in Azerbaijan, where he captured a bronze medal in the 25m Standard Pistol and his appetite for the sport continued to grow.
While he has also competed in 10m Air Pistol, Ashmore prefers the Rapid Fire Pistol event.
“Rapid Fire feels more natural than Air Pistol. In Air Pistol, you stand on the line for an hour shooting one pellet after another. Why not get them over in four seconds?” he said.
Graduating to the open senior World Cup ranks in New Delhi in 2017 was also an eye opening experience.
“That was a learning curve. Even though I was doing the exact same thing, I was shooting with the adults now. It was overwhelming, but good to get it out of the way,” he said.
Throughout his journey, Ashmore has enjoyed support from the ACT Academy of Sport and in 2019 he was one of 10 recipients at the University of Canberra to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Eldon and Anne Foote Charitable Trust to assist his sports career and tertiary education.
At ACTAS, Ashmore is working closely with Krystle Tate, Head of Athletic Performance, on his strength and conditioning, particularly his core strength, legs, and the connection of muscle groups for overall stability.
While the 24-year old Ashmore has Galiabovitch and Tate as key members of his support team, he admits the mental side of Shooting needs improvement.
“Shooting is more mental than technical. I am not perfect technically, but I am a lot more skilled technically than mentally. If I was able to have the exact same mental and technical ability, I’d be a lot more consistent,” he said.
“It’s about staying in the moment. It’s so easy to be mentally side-tracked.”
While Ashmore won’t be standing on the line at the Tokyo Olympics, he is aiming to win selection for the Oceania Championships in November, and the Commonwealth Shooting and Archery Championships scheduled for India next January where he hopes to win selection alongside Evglevski.
But there is one other line where Ashmore and Evglevski will be standing beside each other on November 13 – Ashmore’s wedding to his childhood sweetheart, Jessica Goulding, where Evglevski is a groomsman.
Along with Perth-based Pistol competitors, Scott Anderson and Bailey Groves, the foursome are firm friends despite their different geographical locations.
“We have a message group and we talk every day. If we were in the same state, we’d be seeing each other every day,” said Ashmore.
But when it comes to firing on the range, the competition juices flow and it’s every man for himself as Ashmore attempts to emulate Esposito’s gold medal winning performance.