IT is a gap year with a difference for Corowa’s James Willett.
Having finished his Higher School Certificate last year, the 18-year-old’s aim is Rio — his aim the only barrier to wearing the green and gold at the 2016 Olympics.
Willet is ranked No. 5 in the country for skeet shooting.
He needs to be either No. 1 or 2 to put himself on the plane to Brazil.
That means money, practice and about four hits instead of misses from a competition’s 125 shots.
Willett was the International Sport Shooting Federation junior men’s skeet winner at the Oceania International Championship in Sydney late last year, shooting an impressive 116 from 125.
But he needs to do better.
“At the last Olympics, 120 was needed to make the final,” Willett said yesterday.
“The top ranking guys are around that mark or better.
“Everyone wants to go to the Olympics, that’s the pinnacle for our sport and if you are ranked No. 1 or 2, that’s what you want to do — you won’t knock back selection for an Olympics.”
While the skeet is Willett’s pet event, it didn’t stop him also entering the junior ISSF trap competition — in which he finished a respectable fourth.
Willett also competed in the AISL youth national championship after that, winning the ISSF double trap 17-20 men’s competition and finishing third overall in the all-ages final.
Willett followed that by taking out the ISSF 17-20 men’s skeet competition, and finishing second in the all-age final.
In trap shooting, the targets are launched from a single “house” or machine, generally away from the shooter.
In skeet shooting, targets are launched from two “houses” in “sideways” paths that intersect in front of the shooter — sometimes low, others high and sometimes in between.
Willett has dedicated his post high school year to achieving his Olympic dream.
He trains five days a week between working on the family sheep and grain property and other farm contracting work.
“It is the only way you can get to the level of the other blokes — they are a bit older, a bit more experienced, so I just have to work harder,” Willett said.
“There are always areas where you can improve.
“In skeet, you move from pad to pad around a semi-circle and you’ll find that most shooters have weaknesses — either on certain days or in general.
“If I’ve had a bad weekend from station 5, I will practice that. If I had a problem with high shots, I’ll practice that.
“But it’s a 12-gauge gun that weighs about three kilograms, so you’ve got to be physically fit and don’t mind being outside all day.”
Willett admits cost may be the greatest barrier to his rise in the rankings.
“You need to go overseas and compete internationally to help raise your profile and ranking,” he said.
“I go to New Zealand next month as part of the Australian team in a down-the-line competition and then there is a shoot in Malaysia in April that I’m targeting and, hopefully, that’s where I’m headed.
“I’m lucky that Central Murray Credit Union at Yarrawonga, cartridge manufacturer Eley and Australian Sporting Arms back me.
“But it’s not just the travel.
“Last year I went through $20,000 in cartridges alone.”
Shooting has long been in the family and his father, Arthur Willett, won the Field and Game Interschool Shooting Competition at Benalla back in 1986.
James’ name was added to the trophy beside his father’s a quarter of a century later in 2011.
This is Willett’s second nomination in the Norske Skog Young Achiever of the Year Award.