15 March 2024

Olympic hopefuls among competitors at ACTA National Carnival

| Jarryd Rowley
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Shooters from around the world have made their way to Wagga to compete in the ACTA National Carnival

Shooters from around the world have made their way to Wagga to compete in the ACTA National Carnival. Photo: Australian Clay Target Association.

Australia’s best clay shooters including potential Paris Olympics qualifiers have featured at the 2024 Australian Clay Target Association National Championships.

The prestigious shooting event has seen more than 2000 people from the clay shooting community attend, with some travelling from as far as the United States to compete.

The two-week championships included the Skeet Nationals (3 – 9 March) and the Trap Nationals (12 – 17 March).

ACTA Executive Officer Brett Somerville said the national championships was the cornerstone of Australian shooting.

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“This year, the stakes are even higher, with the Paris Olympics looming on the horizon for our very best,” Mr Somerville said.

“We’ve seen some highly competitive performances from our athletes as they strive for the national titles.”

Among the spectators at this year’s competition was the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Double Trap Gold Medalist and Australian men’s coach Russell Mark.

Mr Mark said he had attended the national championships in Wagga since the early 1980s and had seen the skill of the competition grow dramatically since then.

“I’m very happy to be a part of this event,” Mr Mark said.

“I’ve been coming for probably 40 years now and the quality of competitors makes it harder and harder to win each year.”

Mitchell Iles and James Willet shooting

Two of the country’s best shooters Mitchell Iles and James Willett made the trek to Wagga this week to participate in the Australian Clay Target Association’s National Carnival. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

Mr Mark will be taking the men’s teams to Qatar and Azerbaijan in April as several shooters look to book their sports at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“I’ve always thought that this tournament was a great lead into the Olympic Games, even though it is a different discipline of shooting; in a lot of ways, it is as difficult to win here as it will be to win in Paris later this year.”

Mr Mark is bullish about Australia’s chances in shotgun shooting at this year’s Olympics. He believes Australia’s women’s team are the favourites leading into the tournament, while the men shouldn’t be far behind.

Australia failed to secure any medals in the sport for the first time since 2012 at the 2021 Tokyo Games. Mr Mark said the interrupted preparation and stricter COVID-19 restrictions halted any chance of the Australian team securing gold, but he said the 2024 campaign looked far more promising.

Two shooters vying for Olympic selection include the world number five James Willet and Australia’s lead qualifier Mitchell Iles. Willet and Iles currently sit as the leaders in Olympic qualification and have made the trip to Wagga to continue their impressive runs of form.

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The pair said the national tournament had been a fantastic preparation for their upcoming Olympic qualifying tournaments in Qatar and Baku.

Mr Willet said he had been producing impressive results this year, recording 121 out of 125 targets per tournament consistently.

“I’m on track and this year, I’ve been shooting some good scores,” he said.

“If I can carry these results into the Olympics it should have me very close to making the top six final. The scores are there for me, I’ve just got to keep trying to bring them to the next couple of qualifying events.

The ISSF Final Olympic Qualification Championship will take place in Doha, Qatar from 19 – 29 April, while the 2024 Paris Olympics take place from 26 July – 11 August.

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