Byron 50m shooter Justin Toohey with his Russian made TOZ .22 pistol.
Byron 50m shooter Justin Toohey with his Russian made TOZ .22 pistol.

Olympics in Tooheys sight

By ADAM HICKS sport@northernstar.com.au HAND in pocket, one eye open, Justin Toohey breathes deep amid the crack of pistol fire on the range.

The Byron Bay shooter raises his .22 calibre hand gun with his index finger tickling the hair trigger.

The target is a spot on the Australian Olympic team. The adrenalin surges through his body.

"When shooting you get terribly nervous but you've got to learn how to overcome that," he said.

"Those who do it the best, perform the best." After a sharp showing at the Oceania Championships this month, Toohey has made the Australian selectors short list.

He is among five shooters gunning for two Olympic team spots with selection depending solely on the results of two remaining tournaments.

To book his Beijing ticket he has to do one thing: 'shoot well'.

In a standard competition a pistol shooter has two hours to fire 60 shots at a target from 50m.

A bullseye hit is the equivalent of striking a matchbox from the opposite end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and to make the mark Toohey must remain calm.

"It's very slow, very methodical, careful shooting" the 52-year-old said with carefully measure tone.

"Every shot is its own match. If you're not completely satisfied when aiming, with your body position or your mind, you can cancel the shot and start again."

"You need to be very stable, have good eye sight, be steady and mentally fit.

"It's almost meditational ... you almost have to meditate your way though the shot, it goes off when it's right.

"You become very focused on one thing and progressively go through a sequence of stages and in the end, hopefully the shot will go off when the body tells you it's right for the finger to move."

It's almost Zen through the art of bang, bang, bang. "You can be up there and everything feels right and sometimes it goes off and it surprises you, but it's a 10 (a bullseye)," he said.

"But if you force it, if you think it's the right time and think now, and bang, you tend to jab at it, flick it. "That can make a huge difference.

"You only need to move the barrel a quater of an inch and at other end the shot will be six inches out."

In preparation the next qualifying shoot, the Australia Cup Final starting December 7, Toohey is training daily at the Byron Bay Pistol Club.

"It's tremendous for self-discipline and it gives me a focus for training, physical and mental training," he said.

"I'm not into the smell of gun powder. "If I was good at fishing I would probably compete at that.

"It's nice to compete against yourself ... it's very similar to golf where an individual is trying to better their score.

"The goal (with pistol shooting) is that every shot is technically perfectly executed."

If Toohey scores in the top three in December, he will progress into a final shoot-out in February.



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