“Shoot only perfect shots” is the note-to-self written inside the lid of Brenda Greene’s plastic pellet box–not unlike an Altoid tin with a special place for each pellet–the words frame a toonie-sized target with the bullseye blasted out.
The message though is not just for inspiration, it’s a job requirement.
While you’re glued to your couch watching the London Olympics this summer, Greene will be in the bowels of the Human Kinetics & Recreation building at MUN spending hours shooting tiny holes in the dead centre of toonie-sized target from ten paces with an air rifle. Which, if she does enough of, could very well land her at the Olympics one day.
“Right now I train four days a week, sometimes five,” says Greene, 24, who is one of the top female sport shooters in Canada. “Two hours per session probably, and that’s on top of physical activity, and mental training, and all the nutrition stuff that goes with it.”
Like any Olympic sport, elite sport shooting is physically and mentally taxing. It requires strength, endurance, balance, a heck of a lot of practice, and, perhaps more than other sports, the mental focus of a Jedi master because the margin between gold and dead last is so narrow.
“In competition you compete for score,” explains Greene. “The dot is a ten,” she says pointing to the half-millimeter wide bullseye in the centre of the toonie-sized target, “and each ring out is successively lower–ten, nine, eight, seven, six–you’re looking for tens all the time. If you go to the Olympics, the winner is going to shoot a 400–women shoot 40 shots, men shoot 60 shots.”
“I myself shoot in the 380s,” she adds. “And the top shooters in Canada will get low 390s.”
The difference between Greene and the best in the world is all of a few millimeters spread over 40 shots taken over the span an hour and 15 minutes. She’s that close to the Olympics.
How to get to the Olympics
1. Choose a sport: If you are older than, say, eight and you aren’t training 20 hours per week already, you had better pick an obscure, aged-friendly one. Why not shooting? There will be only two Canadian shooters in London this summer, so there is definitely room for improvement, and the oldest Olympic champ ever was a shooter, Swedish Oscar Swahn, 64, won gold in the running deer shooting in 1912 (things were a little different back then).
2. Get shooting: The NL Shooting Association hosts open shoots from September until June at the Frank Zahn High Performance Markmanship Facility at MUN and the MacMorran Community Center. You can drop in and use their gear for free the first few times, once you get the hang of it it’ll only cost you $80 to shoot a couple of times per week for an entire year.
3. Choose your weapon: Once you’ve figured out your shooting sport of choice (10m, 25m, 50m air rifle, pistol, and .22 calibre rifle in an array of standing and laying positions) you’re going to want to invest in gear. That $50 Canadian Tire Daisy air rifle won’t get you to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. You’ll need a high end German-made rifle that will cost you three or four grand, and a Robo-Cop-like leather shooting suit, the fancy shooting shoes, and little hat. You’re going to probably want to get a second job.
4. Practice, practice, practice: It needs to be an all encompassing obsession. The shooting range is your new home. That one bedroom basement apartment you rent, that’s just where you store your extra set of gear.
5. Compete, compete, compete: You’ll need to achieve certain scores in regional, provincial, national, and international competitions to work your way up to the World Cup circuit where you’ll have a shot to qualify for the Olympics. Oh, and until you are the world champ with multi-dollar endorsement deals, you’ll be travelling abroad for meets on your own dime. You may want to start looking into a third job.
6. Shoot only perfect shots: You’ve made it to Rio, you’re wearing a heavy leather suit, sweating pellets in the oppressive South American heat, thousands of shooting fans sit stone-faced, silently judging you, the shooters from shooting super powers Germany and China have all shot perfect scores, it’s your turn, a few perfect shots and you’re golden, a fraction of a millimeter off target and you’ll finish dead last. No pressure.