With an important provincial event in Kamloops this weekend, two local athletes will have a shot at greatness on home soil.
Then, they'll have another shot. Then, they'll have 58 more.
The athletes are 21-year-old Sera Nami, and 22-year-old Sullivan Fagan and they're the finest competitive shooters in Kamloops. Their talents will be on full display with the city hosting the B.C. Provincial Smallbore Championship this weekend at MacArthur Island Park and the Kamloops Target Sports outdoor range.
Originally, both Nami and Fagan found the sport through air cadets, where Pat Landals – director of target rifles for the British Columbia Target Sports Association – was coaching, and brought them over to the civilian side of things. Ever since then, they've been competing in shooting events around the country, and are consistently faring well. Just last week, the two won bronze in a national mixed-team event at the Maple Leaf Open in Leduc, Alta.
This weekend, they'll be shooting separately, with both taking part in the air rifle and smallbore rifle events on Saturday and Sunday (May 19 and 20), and Nami also doing the free rifle event on Monday (May 21).
In mid-July, they'll attend another national event in Toronto. If they do well enough, they could qualify for the Canadian National Senior team.
The pair both have a goal of Olympic or World Cup appearances for air rifle events one day, and the beauty of the sport is that while they both have been shooting for more than six years now, they still have a long career ahead of them.
"There is no maximum age. I've seen some competitors that are in their 80s and still competing," says Landals, who has been coaching the two for their entire career. "The average age runs from about 13 to 30, but target shooting is a lifetime sport so it's not uncommon to find athletes that are elderly and still compete."
Physically, target shooting calls for flexibility, core strength and good cardio, so that athletes can keep their heart rate low. But as Nami says, the sport is 90 per cent mental. Fagan adds that the mental elements are what drew him to the sport in the first place."I played a lot of baseball, and in that, you do have to be focused and you have to be able to have the burst-energy, then shift to being calm. With shooting, you have to be calm the entire time and I just enjoyed that."
With shooting relying so heavily on being calm and collected, routine is key. Fagan says even minor alterations to competition day routines can throw you off. That's why he always wants to get adjusted to the time zone when travelling east for events, and his pre-competition lunch always comes from an easy-to-find national chain – Subway.
"I've been getting the same thing for I don't know how long now," he says. "It's a pizza sub on Italian herb and cheese, toasted with lettuce, green peppers, onions, Chipotle southwest sauce and parmesan cheese."
As for Nami, she also follows a routine, calming herself during competition with music. Well, really, just one song: I Don't Feel Like Dancing by the Scissor Sisters.
"It's kind of weird. I have this one song that I listen to all the time, and while I shoot, it gets stuck in my head," she says. "That's the one song that stays there and it keeps my mind off of other things. It's weird but it works."
In competition, shooters have an hour and a half to take 60 shots. A 10.9 is the highest possible score on a single shot, and while you'd expect some separation over the course of 60 shots, scores can still be very tight at the top. Nami says last weekend, gold and silver medal winners were separated by just 0.2 points.
Landals, who is also organizing the weekend, is expecting about 20 to 30 competitors for Saturday and Sunday's events. Because the sport of shooting is a smaller community, Fagan and Nami will be very familiar with a provincial field like this weekend's. In fact, they may know the results just by showing up.
"It's a small group of us in the province, and by looking at how each other are shooting, we can know more or less how a competition is going to go before we even shoot because we're all fairly consistent," says Fagan. "In that way, it becomes more about competing against yourself and making sure you are doing the best against yourself."
Though they both fit into the top quarter of competitors in Canada, Nami agrees that the battle at any event is against distraction.
"I try not to think about where I finish," says Nami. "Obviously, I want to win. I'm a very competitive person, but I can't think about winning because then I won't focus on the shooting itself. My goal is to be the most relaxed and accurate I can be, and have fun with it."
The last time Kamloops hosted the provincial championship was in 2015. Back then, they held the indoor air rifle events in Pacific Way Elementary. The move to the McArthur Island Park arena was a welcome change.
Air rifle events will take place at West Arena B on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., and the smallbore and free rifle events will be Sunday and Monday, respectively, at the same time at the outdoor range near the correctional facility. The events are free to attend.