A PERTH woman has become the first West Australian to secure a place in the Australian clay shooting team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic. Hocking resident Laura Coles (32) is the only Western Australian in the 15-person team and will contest the women’s skeet shotgun event.

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Coles is one of seven Australian shooting athletes due to make their debut at the Tokyo Olympic, which has been postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m the first West Australian clay target shooter to ever make it on to an Olympic team. After competing in four nomination trial events from January to March, the 15 athletes were nominated by Shooting Australia and officially selected by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) on April 17.

Coles said it was a “dream come true” that she had been working towards since 2007 when she took up the Olympic discipline of clay shooting. She was first introduced to the sport in Busselton five years earlier, as a 15-year-old, after her father received a shotgun from his father-in-law. Coles said the motivation to pursue a place in the team for 13 years came from her “stubborn” nature and reluctance to let down family and her partner who had supported her Olympic bid.

You get to a point you put so much into it that you can’t walk away. It’s incredibly hard to do it from WA – a lot of the competitions are held over in the eastern states. A lot of coaching and know-how are also in the eastern states. I kind of had to teach myself and that’s probably also the reason it took so long. I’ve had coaches come over to me as well.

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A lot of it has been trial and error and seeing what works for me. I’ve ended up with a little bit of an individual technique. Coles said the qualifying period had been unusual due to the coronavirus situation, which threatened to cancel the final qualifying event in Sydney in March. At that stage, I was behind in qualifying.

If they chose to end it there, I wouldn’t have made the team. Once I did make the team, the Tokyo Olympic was up in the air. Coles said after the games were postponed to 2021, the athletes did not know whether they would have to requalify, until the AOC announced the selection on April 17. She said the coronavirus restrictions meant she was having a break from her normal training, with her range at the International Shooting Complex in Whiteman Park currently closed.

“It was a little bit of a jarring change,” she said.

Her work as an instructor for Hot Shots Shooting events at the WA Gun Club also stopped, making it a sudden transition from working and training hard to have little to occupy her time. However, she was pragmatic about the forced break and having time off before training would pick up when ranges reopened. I think that’s the case for most people around the world unless you are lucky enough to own your range. Without such a luxury herself, Coles has focused on physical training such as weights and aerobics, as well as yoga.

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She has also been practicing her “dry mount” technique to lift the gun from the starting position near her hip to her shoulder. Coles said she hoped to celebrate her 33rd birthday on April 22 with a quiet dinner at home with her fiance. AOC chef de mission Ian Chesterman congratulated the 15 athletes selected “to continue Australia’s rich Olympic legacy in the sport of shooting”. Shooting Australia chief executive Luke van Kempen also paid tribute to the athletes on their Tokyo Olympic selection.

Olympic team athletes now have the certainty of selection and they can now direct their singular focus on training and preparing for the commencement of the Tokyo Olympic in July 2021. We will be working hard with them all to ensure they are in top form at the end of an extended preparation period.

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