Target shooting, like so many things in life, is all about the details.The very fine details.
“You’re dealing in tenths of millimetres across your target,” says Ben Taylor, a rising star in air rifle shooting. “The 10-ring on your target is only half a millimetre across and you’re trying to hit that from 10 metres.”
Taylor, 19, admits anyone can be a target shooter, but says, more often than not, that some of the best shooters are individuals with strong analytical minds. Really good ones, he says, are often businessmen or people from the science community. His coach, Dave Woolridge, for instance, is a physics instructor at the Marine Institute in St. John’s.
“When it comes to shooting, you have so many little things that can go on and you have to be able to analyze your performance and pick up on places you can improve and work on ways to improve it.”
Taylor says, that while success on the range comes down to concentration and focus, people with a certain type of personality tend to make better shooters.
“A lot of people who are pretty even-keeled, people who don’t get too emotional seem to do quite well.
“I’ve been told I have a knack for it and I feel like I’ve picked it up pretty quickly,” says Taylor, whose introduction to shooting came by way of his father, Dave, who would take his sons to the Rod and Gun Club outside of St. John’s to shoot clay pigeons when they were younger.
‘A knack’ is understatement.
Since winning a pair of bronze medals at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, the St. John’s native has made his mark on the national scene. Last August in Calgary, on top of capturing a gold in the men’s air rifle expert class, he was part of a junior mixed team that set a new national record at the national smallbore rifle championships, earning himself a spot on the 2012 national junior team.
This February, Taylor won a singles bronze at the Canadian Air Gun Grand Prix in Toronto and teamed with Woolridge and fellow Newfoundland shooter Dave Ficken to win a silver in the men’s team event.
“That was the most nervous I’ve ever been because that was my first big finals, there were a lot of people watching us and I was tied for second place with a shooter from Ontario, which made it even more nerve-wracking,” says Taylor.
The biggest highlight in his thus-far short shooting career came when he attended his first World Cup competition this month in Munich, Germany.
While he failed to make it to the podium at the event, Taylor says he had no expectations of coming home with a medal. Instead, he viewed his invitation to represent Canada as an opportunity to shoot against and alongside more than 800 of the best shooters on the planet, many of them set to represent their countries at this year’s Olympics Summer Games in London.
During a practice session, Taylor says he turned around to see the No. 2-ranked shooter in the world sitting on a bench behind him awaiting his turn.
“I keep track of this stuff on YouTube and watch all the finals, so to see someone you see in the media as being a phenomenal, amazing shooters and then see them sitting behind you is a bit surreal.
“I didn’t find it intimidating ... I was more in awe of the whole thing.”
Despite not winning a medal, his score of 575 out of 600 allows him to compete at more World Cup events in the future.
As for making the jump to the national senior team and possibly representing Canada on the Olympic stage, Taylor admits he has a ways to go before realizing that goal.
“We have cut scores for each team. The lowest is the national junior team. The next score up from that is the national development team, kind of like the B team. The scores I shot in Munich are good enough to put me on that team.
“There’s not a huge gape between the junior team and the development team, but the gaps from that team to the actual national team is a bit of a jump.”
But Taylor is no rush to get there. After all, Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn holds the record as the oldest Olympic medalist having won silver at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium at the ripe old age of 72.
“If you look at some of the best shooters in the world, they’re 40 or 50. That’s the great thing about shooting.”