Young gun off to Rio

Field and Game - - YOUNG GUN OFF TO RIO -

In Rio, Aislin Jones will be­come Aus­tralia's youngest shoot­ing ath­lete to com­pete at an Olympic Games but her jour­ney to the in­ter­na­tional stage be­gan at Field & Game in Bairns­dale.

At the end of June, Aislin Jones was in Baku, Azer­bai­jan, com­pet­ing in her first World Cup skeet event.

In a promis­ing sign ahead of the Rio Olympic Games, she was ranked eighth af­ter hit­ting 70 of 75 tar­gets in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion rounds.

When she com­petes in Rio, Aislin will be aged just 16 years and 179 days.

“We've set goals for the event; I just have to go there and en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence and know that I've done my best,” she said.

“If I set un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of myself, I am only go­ing to come away dis­ap­pointed.”

Aislin started shoot­ing Sim­u­lated Field at Bairns­dale, fol­low­ing her fa­ther, Dave Jones, into the sport.

“I fol­lowed Dad around to a lot of shoots and had a go; it looked like fun and some­thing dif­fer­ent to try,” she said.

“They were a great bunch of peo­ple and they helped me out a lot when I first started.”

It was soon ev­i­dent that Aislin was a nat­u­ral, and a lefty, which at­tracted the at­ten­tion of Lau­ryn Mark, an­other lefty, who fin­ished fourth in women's skeet at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

“Lau­ryn was ex­cited there was a ju­nior girl and a left han­der like her­self and she got me into ISSF skeet.

“Com­ing from a sport­ing back­ground, skeet has all the dif­fer­ent tar­gets so it was very sim­i­lar to what I had been do­ing.

“It has def­i­nitely been a lot of work. I'm train­ing at the mo­ment three or four times a week on the range and I have a laser sim­u­la­tor at home.”

Bairns­dale FGA helped the tran­si­tion by res­ur­rect­ing an old skeet shoot­ing range that had been in­ac­tive for a decade.

Aislin said that sup­port had been crit­i­cal be­cause it al­lowed her to train more of­ten than if she had to train in Mel­bourne.

“With­out their sup­port I wouldn't have got to where I am now; they are a big part of it,” she said.

“The sup­port has been in­cred­i­ble; ev­ery­one was willing to help me out and give me tips.”

Aislin's dad Dave, a para­medic, shot clays as a teenager and picked up the sport again when he moved to Gipp­s­land.

Aislin started out scor­ing and push­ing the but­ton to re­lease tar­gets but her in­ter­est con­tin­ued and by age 12 she was com­pet­ing with a sec­ond-hand 20 gauge.

“She took to it like a duck to wa­ter,” Dave said.

“It is an in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion sport; you get an in­stant re­sult even if you only hit 10 tar­gets and then the chal­lenge is there to hit more.

“It is an in­tensely men­tal sport — the abil­ity to con­trol your­self and not let a missed tar­get turn into an­other three misses; you have to have the right sort of per­son­al­ity for it.

“Aislin has the right per­son­al­ity type; she doesn't out­wardly dis­play a lot of emo­tion, she's very calm, con­sid­ered and hum­ble.”

The long hours at the range and ad­di­tional train­ing, in­clud­ing eye ex­er­cises that in­volve dart­ing from one dot to an­other along a ruler to im­prove fo­cus, have paid off.

“Within a year of start­ing shoot­ing coach­ing, we sat down and mapped out an eight-year plan cul­mi­nat­ing with the Tokyo Olympics in 2020,” Aislin said.

“I'm four years ahead of plan. I think I just pro­gressed faster than the re­al­is­tic goals we set.”

Aislin won't re­veal her goals for Rio but if his­tory is any guide, there might need to be a re­assess­ment mid-stream.

“I'm just go­ing to let it hap­pen,” she said.

Bairns­dale FGA mem­bers, who were the first to spot Aislin's po­ten­tial at age 12 and have done ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to sup­port her de­vel­op­ment, will cer­tainly be watch­ing on proudly when she com­petes in Rio.

“We would not be in this po­si­tion with­out the sup­port of the club,” Dave said.

Ais­lin Jones

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