Plucky Paralympians highlight appeal of shooting

The trio who comprised the Australian shooting team may have left the Tokyo Paralympics without medals but their efforts perfectly illustrated the all-encompassing nature of the sport. Queenslanders Natalie Smith and Chris Pitt along with Anton Zappelli from WA carried Australia’s ambitions and proved shooting offers all-comers a chance to shine at the range whatever their status, age or gender.

Ultimately the threesome were unsuccessful in their pursuit of gold, silver and bronze but that takes nothing away from their experience of sharing the limelight with a host of fellow shooters on the world stage. It’s a journey that will live with them forever and signals the potential direction for any equally determined Aussie hopefuls with ambitions to follow their lead.

Circumstances dictated a gruelling schedule with a 14-day staging camp at the Brisbane International Shooting Centre followed by intensive team briefings prior to departure for Japan. Once the action was under way, Smith competed in the R2 women’s 10m air rifle Standing and R3 mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone. For Zappelli, his itinerary involved the R3 mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone and R6 mixed 50m Rifle Prone while Pitt’s double outings were in the P1 men’s 10m Air Pistol followed by the P3 mixed 25m Pistol.

There was a series of ‘hard luck’ stories as Zappelli missed out on a second near finals spot when he finished 11th in the R6 event on the final day of the Games. He delivered a respectable overall total of 616.0 points in the 48-person qualifying round and missed a top eight final berth by a mere 1.4 points. Earlier in the Games the Perth athlete was cruelly denied a place in the R3 mixed bracket final when he finished just 1.1 points adrift.

Bundaberg’s Pitt had to make his exit after finishing 25th in his P3 campaign and was left to rue a couple of pistol breakdowns, punishing him with two zero scores during the opening Precision Stage. His journey had been made even more taxing after undergoing major surgery and radiation therapy for tongue cancer late in 2020. Brisbane’s Smith was unable to qualify for the final of her R2 event on the opening day and suffered a similar route out in the R3 mixed grouping.

And as the dust settles on the Tokyo action, thoughts will already be turning to the Paris Paralympics. Due to global circumstances this showpiece is only three years away so for Australian hopefuls, the next adventure beckons.

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