Shooter Susie Smith has a medal in her sights but knows she will have to be at the top of her game if she is to keep pace with a formidable Indian team in their own back yard at the Commonwealth Games.
The Jannali High School teacher is equally at home on the rifle range as she is with her Year 7-12 English, history and society and culture classes. It’s a sport she discovered almost by accident and instantly loved.
“When I was 10 I didn’t have anything to do on a Sunday and my dad was a member of the local rifle club, but I’d never really paid much attention to that. My friends all went to youth group and so I had the option of going with my friends or with my dad ... and I ended up going with my dad and rest is basically history,” Smith recalls.
“I got a rifle for my 12th birthday, which is the legal age for shooting. I wouldn’t ever call myself a natural, I’ve had to work hard at it, but I enjoyed it from the minute I picked it up.”
Now she is one of the top shooters in Australia and will compete in the 50m Women’s Prone Rifle event - 60 shots in the prone position on a 50m outdoor range at a 10-ring target with the bullseye just 10.4mm in diameter.
“We have an hour and 15 minutes to complete it. The scores at the moment worldwide, and particularly in the Commonwealth, are just getting higher and higher. To get into the medals I would be expecting that I’d have to shoot probably 594 out of 600 or better. My personal best is 596. I’m going to have to have my A-game that day.
“You need to be able to keep it together if you drop a shot or lose a point because a couple of points and you can lose the match. If you do that at the beginning it takes a lot of mental strength to pull yourself out of it.”
This mental strength is one of the key areas of a training regime that includes practising in her lounge room (yes, you read it correctly). “There are quite a lot of different things we do. We obviously fire live shots at the range ... we also do physical training, strength and conditioning sessions at the gym, and also a fair bit of mental rehearsal.
“We also can train at home, not firing live shots but going through the motions, what we call dry firing – which is where you go through the motions but don’t actually let the shot go because you don’t want to shoot through the wall! It’s as though you’re shooting, but no projectile comes out the other end,” Smith tells me with a laugh.
Smith will keep in touch with school by email and text and knows she can count on thier support. “In Melbourne 2006 the students knew I wasn’t shooting well because I’d been updating the teachers. At assembly they allowed the kids to get their mobile phones out and the teachers held up the number. All the kids sent me hero text messages, so I got 400 hero messages the next day which was really lovely and encouraged me along, I ended up lifting my game a bit.”