Aussie shooters out to trap gold in Tokyo
Lockdown temporarily shifted Laetisha Scanlan and Penny Smith's focus, to apples and cows respectively, while Tom Grice kept working but put his gun down for about three months.
James Willett, the fourth Australian in Tokyo seeking to continue the country's proud history in trap shooting, had the benefit of an Olympic-standard range in his backyard.
The quartet have navigated different paths through the COVID-19 pandemic to this unique event, but are united by a desire to follow in the gold-medal winning footsteps of Michael Diamond, Russell Mark, Suzy Balogh and Catherine Skinner.
The Tokyo men's and women's trap competitions start with qualifying rounds on Wednesday, while Smith-Grice and Scanlan-Willett also loom as medal contenders in Saturday's team event.
Willett has made the transition from double trap to trap since Rio 2016 with assistance from mentor Mark plus the support of family and sponsors, who helped fund a trap range worth approximately $250,000.
It was completed on Willett's Riverina family farm just before the coronavirus first halted normal life.
Shooting Australia had already finalised its team for Tokyo but, at that stage, immense uncertainty clouded the sporting extravaganza.
"I pretty much kept training right through," Willett told AAP.
"There were a lot of different media reports. The AOC were really good, updating us on what was happening behind the scenes.
"But yeah, it was always in the back of your mind that it could have been cancelled."
Willett, the only Australian outside Diamond to register a qualifying score of 125/125 at a major event, isn't alone in benefiting from his layout.
"It's world-class," Scanlan said.
"It's always a pleasure to train there. I managed to get up there, three or four times.
"It's quite a luxury. You have free range on the range, we can work on things that we're struggling with and there's no interruptions."
Multiple lockdowns affected Victorians Scanlan and Smith's preparation for Tokyo.
But the duo regard last year's initial enforced reset, coming after a taxing selection process in which they were picked ahead of 2016 Olympic champion Skinner, as a blessing in disguise.
Scanlan worked alongside her dad, picking and packing apples in a Tynong orchard.
"I've been shooting for 16 years and I don't think I've ever had a break as long as that first lockdown," Scanlan said.
"It was quite nice to have a bit of time with dad. Apples were quite a good distraction.
"I did start to get an itchy trigger finger after a month."
Smith, whose mum Kim attended the 1984 Games as a groom for Andrew Hoy at the first of his eight Olympics, enjoyed a chance to spend more time on the family's dairy farm in Bookaar.
"I had a bit of a break from shooting and felt really fresh when I got back into it," Smith said.
Grice was unable to train at his local venue, the Olympic range that Diamond won gold at in 2000, but continued to look after water-supply dams in the Macarthur region.
"An enforced break, but not overly negative," Grice said.
"Work was a good way to take my mind off uncertainty about the Olympics."
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