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Aiming to enthuse others

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013
Parafed

ON THE MARK: Paralympic gold medallist Michael Johnson and Mt Eden’s Auckland Parafed Shooting Club are resurrecting the sport of air rifle shooting.

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Concentration, consistency and a can-do attitude.

It might take a bit more than that to win a gold medal but that's all you need to try your hand at target shooting.

Almost anyone can take a shot at the sport, Paralympic gold medallist Michael Johnson says.

The 38-year-old is on the hunt for more members of all ages and abilities to join the Auckland Parafed Shooting Club in Mt Eden where he coaches both able-bodied and disabled shooters.

"It's something different from the usual sports. There's no real limitations on your physical ability. You just need a can-do attitude."

Tables and stands are used by shooters who are unable to support the weight of the rifle themselves.

It is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one, he says.

"You can win or lose by a quarter of a millimetre - you have to be patient as well as wanting to give it a good go."

The three-time Paralympian took up the sport as a hobby 10 years ago and within a year was travelling to Korea for an international competition.

He went on to win gold with a world record perfect score at the Athens Paralympics in 2004 and has since taken home two bronze medals from Beijing and London in the 10m air rifle competition.

The sport certainly takes you places, Johnson says.

But the stigma surrounding firearms can put many people off taking up target shooting in the first place.

It is something that people need to get past, he says.

"If you learn something the right way or you learn all the rules behind it, it's only going to help benefit and promote safety and more awareness. Some people that I've met were a little bit apprehensive about it and it wasn't until I said ‘look give it a go' that they found that it wasn't as scary as they first thought."

Mt Eden range shooter Julie Wills was hesitant about taking aim for the first time. "When I discovered that things can be dealt with safely it puts a whole different perspective on things."

Range manager Robert Berger says the club has always aimed to incorporate both able-bodied and disabled shooters.

The Mt Eden club is currently the only permanent air range in Auckland after the region's target shooters lost their lease to the Ardmore Shooting Range in 2008.

"For a while air rifle shooting sort of stagnated so we've just resurrected the sport ourselves really. We're almost right at the beginning again and I think once the word gets out it could be quite popular."

Email Robert Berger at robert@missioncontrol.net.nz

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- East And Bays Courier

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