Sport

Shooting for Games glory

by
February 07, 2018

James pictured competing in the 2016 RIO Olympic Games where he shot an Olympic record in the qualifying round and finished fifth after a three person bronze medal shoot out in the Men’s Double Trap. Photo: AAP

James with his trophies at the National championships in Echuca recently.

Local sharp shooter James Willett has the chance to shoot for gold in the double trap at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April. 

Willett and Rutherglen local Gaye Shale were both selected in the 28-member Australian side where they will compete in the last double trap event on an international stage before turning to the single trap discipline due to a change to the Olympic shooting program.

Willett qualified first in selection events last year for the Commonwealth Games and with his recent results of three national titles at the national championships in Echuca he was a sure candidate for the Commonwealth Games.

“The results have been a good lead up to the Commonwealth Games and I head to Qatar on February 15 and looking for more great results just before the games start,” James said.

“Having the Commonwealth Games back on home soil makes it that much more exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge but it also puts more pressure on you to do well in front of a home crowd.”

Willett will also be taking part in the Queens Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games when it makes its way through Yarrawonga on Thursday, February 15. 

In recent weeks James competed in the National championships in Echuca where he won all three of the national titles he competed in.

James, who is only 22 years old won the Commonwealth event by shooting 138 out of 150 targets before shooting 72 out of 80 in the finals in 50-60km winds.

He then went on to shoot a score of 139 out of 150 in the National Double Trap Championship which included shooting 76 out of 80 targets in the finals.

Due to the results of both days he also won the High gun category as he was the highest scorer over the whole championships. 

This Commonwealth Games will be one of the last times James competes in Double trap as it will be replaced by a mixed teams event at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, leaving single trap and skeet as the two individual disciplines.

“Double trap has always been my discipline but they are getting rid of it all together on the international and now Australian national stage so we’ll all have to switch over, I’ll be shooting trap after that,” he said. 

Late last year James also travelled overseas to compete in the India and Ocenia qualifiers where he was successful in both events.

The Ocenia event, which is a Commonwealth Games Qualifier event, saw him win silver in the double trap and trap and come third in the Commonwealth test event where he missed out by one target. James said the Australians competing in the Commonwealth Games were all a good chance at standing on the podium but they have some good competition. 

“The England, India and Malta teams would be the strongest competitors for the Commonwealth Games, England came first and second last time so they’re pretty strong shooters,” he said.

When asked if he was one of the favorites for gold once the Commonwealth Games come around in April, James tried to stay fairly modest but admitted due to his number one status in the world last year he has to be up there.

“There’s expectation on a few of us to win so fingers crossed it can be me,” he said. 

To become as successful in the sport as James has competitors have to have a focused training regime, something James has integrated into life back on the farm in Mulwala.

“I train between 3-5 days a week,” James said.

“We built a shooting range on the farm worth around $70,000, to simulate an Olympic standard range. “I generally train from around 10am to 5pm shooting targets and can shoot anywhere up to 800-900 targets during the day.

“We shoot in all weather, it doesn’t get cancelled so I train in the heat, the cold, rain whichever.”

To top off his recent successes he also won the Male Athlete of the Year at the Shooting Australia awards night last December for his achievements over the course of 2017.

James credited some of his local sponsors in the Central Murray Credit Union, Hargreaves Secured Investments, Yarrawonga Fencing and Cobram Toyota as businesses and individuals that have got behind him and helped him along the way. 

“Some of the local businesses in Yarrawonga Mulwala have got behind me and really helped me along my journey as well as my family and friends who I am so grateful for.”

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