The Australian Shotgun Shooting Team returned from Egypt over the weekend, where they reinforced their world class talent at the Shotgun World Cup in Cairo.
Three Aussies made the finals during the Trap event including world number 1 Penny Smith in Women’s Trap. In Mens Trap, Nathan Argiro made his senior world cup final debut, with internationally decorated James Willett securing a bronze medal.
With 13 athletes, the Team in Cairo was the largest Australian World Cup Team (ISSF) to travel in 2023 as a key part of the preparation plan for the 2023 ISSF World Championships and 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Yarrawonga resident Willett, currently ranked 13th in the world in Mens Trap, shot a qualifying score of 119 out of 125 targets, equalling the score of three other competitors. The four men then entered a sudden death ‘miss and out’ shoot off to determine the remaining three ranking match (semi finals) positions. Willett showed his experience, easily progressing through to ranking match 2 where he contested a position in the medal match against fellow Aussie Argiro, and a competitor from Kuwait and the Czech Republic. A strong performance in the ranking match with a score of 22 out of 25, and Willett was into the medal match, hungry for a podium finish. Another strong performance with a score of 23 out of 25 in the medal match equalling the score with Italy’s Massimo Fabbrizi (world ranked 16). With Fabbrizi qualifying in a higher position to reach the medal match, Willet was eliminated, securing the bronze medal.
“I finished qualifying on 119 and had to shoot off to get into the finals and had a strong semi [final] and medal match and ended up with the bronze medal so I am really happy.” said Willet. The Cairo World Cup concluded 6 weeks of international competition and training for Willett “It was a tough one to be out there finishing up a six-week trip for me and obviously really happy to come away with a medal from this event and top off the trip. All the hard work from the last few weeks has gone really well and I will head home from here to get ready for [the next World Cup in] Kazakhstan.”
Watching on from home, Willett’s wife Amy reflected “How exciting! I am so proud of James. He has worked so hard for this and is so determined. This has been a great experience for James and a good lead up to his next competition. It will be nice to have him home as it’s been a long time apart.”
With the quality of international competition requiring an almost flawless performance, one member of the Australian shotgun team making a final is considered a feat but three is considered rare and truly remarkable with Willett indicating it is the first time he has been in a final with another Australian “It is definitely the first time I’ve been in a final with another Australian so it was Nath [Argiro] out there today and it was really good to have him out there and to see him keep moving up from here. Obviously more competition both within Australia and internationally is really helping us.”
Also reflecting on competing against a team mate in a ranking match Argiro said “It’s an honour having another Australian in the same final. You don’t see that too often. James topped me by just one but it was good to see an Aussie get up there and medal.”
Argiro (world ranked 31) with international Junior successes under his belt, showed his development and competitive ability as a Senior in Cairo. “To say it wasn’t an easy one is an understatement. Very happy with how I performed and to make my first World Cup final is something very special and something very memorable for not only myself but for my family and my team and everyone around me.”
Watching on from their hometown of Mildura, Argiro’s parents Christine and Darren said “It was pretty nerve racking and we are very proud of him and he did so well. He has put the time and effort into his training and the hard work and sacrifices are starting to pay off. Being at the top end of your sport has its challenges as you try to balance work and sporting commitments, but we are so proud and look forward to what the rest of this year brings for Nathan.”
In her third consecutive World Cup final this year including a Gold medal in Qatar (March) and a Bronze medal in Cyprus (April), Smith narrowly missed out on a medal in Cyprus finishing in fourth place. “It was a bit challenging and the weather played a bit of havoc with the targets. I am really happy to come away with a 118 [out of 125] and obviously qualify for the final. I had a really good semi and just fell short in the final [medal match] finishing 4th but really happy with my performance” reflected Smith.
Speaking about two other team members in the finals Smith said “It was really fantastic. It was really great to see Nath [Argiro] make his first international final and also James [Willett] out there again…the boys put up a really good fight and it’s really good to see how strong Australia is and the depth we have coming through.”
Of her world number one ranking, Smith said “It’s a really good feeling and good to see all the hard work and effort that my support crew have helped me with and I just need to keep it up.”
In addition to Willett and Argiro in Mens Trap were Tokyo Olympian Thomas Grice shooting 112 out of 125, Mitchell Iles shooting 110, and in his Senior World Cup debut, Gabe Sensi also shooting 110. Rio and Tokyo Olympian Laetisha Scanlan shot 110 out of 125 to finish 14th in the Women’s Trap event with Rio Olympic Gold medallist Catherine Skinner shooting 110 to finish 21st.
Prior to the trap events, Rio Olympian Aislin Jones, Tokyo Olympian Laura Coles and Brittany Melbourne in her World Cup debut, competed in the Women’s Skeet event. Joshua Bell and Frank Morris (World Cup debut) competing in the Men’s Skeet event.
Shooting Australia’s High Performance Manager Kathryn Periac travelled with the team to Cairo and said “It was a challenging environment in Cairo and important to provide support to the athletes as they worked on optimising their performances in the difficult conditions. There were 119 starts in the Mens Trap event, the biggest field overall, with all 5 Australian men finishing in, or close to, the top half of the field. I am extremely pleased with the strong performances from all the team members as we work towards success in the World Championships in Baku later this year, and the Olympic Games in Paris 2024.”
The Australian Shotgun Team will next compete at the World Cup in Almaty, Kazakhstan commencing on 20th May.