One target turned competitive shooter Ash Hawker from a reserve team member into world men’s champion.
The clay target shooter, originally from Kaniva in western Victoria, walked off the range during the last round of the FITASC World Universal Trench Championships in Umbriaverde in Italy with an impressive final score of 197 out of 200.
The Spanish sitting world champion Mario Fuentes took his turn in the final round, reaching 196, with one target to go.
If he shot straight, the pair would be tied on 197 each, leading to a deciding shoot off.
Fuentes took aim — and missed.
“There’s nothing better when you’re wearing the green and gold and you can achieve a dream,” Hawker said.
Unable to watch the contest play out in person, Hawker had been following it live on an app, and said it took a few moments for him to realise he had won.
“I closed the app down thinking, ‘Well, time to probably prepare for a shoot off and get a bit focused’, and within about 30 seconds I had some phone calls saying that I was world champion and he actually had missed his last target,” Hawker said.
“I could have gone down there and watched him … but I didn’t really want to go down there and sit there and watch in case I had to prepare for a shoot off.
“I thought, ‘I’m better off just to rest up and keep cool and hydrate in case it comes down to that’.
“There were a lot of Aussies over there … it sounded like a stampede about a minute after I found out when these guys had come up to my room.”
FITASC — Fédération Internationale de Tir aux Armes Sportives de Chasse — is an international organisation that represents sport shooting.
From first reserve to world champion
What made Hawker’s win even more incredible was that he was not initially included in the Australian team.
“I was first reserve. I didn’t probably have the best nationals [competition] when I went to Melbourne to shoot it,” he said.
“I had a bit of a poor performance, but I’d come off a big down-the-line nationals,” he said.
“Then one of my mates, he had a big holiday planned. He was going to be away at the time of the world championships in Italy, so he pulled out. I took his spot.”
Universal trench, also known as Five Trap, is an international shooting discipline that involves targets being launched from five traps in a trench in front of the stands.
The targets are released at different angles and speeds, which Hawker said made the sport more challenging.
“You can’t rely on a rhythm or timing when you shoot so it’s great fun but it can be a bit hard some days,” he said.
Growing up in Kaniva and now living in Horsham, Hawker’s nearest trench shooting course was three hours away in Melbourne.
Although there were regional shoots, it did make for a long trip to train and compete.
He said it was the fun of the sport and the camaraderie that drew him into universal trench.
“You meet some absolute ripper people through the sport,” Hawker said.
“There’s guys that have gone in the Olympics but they’re so humble and they’re just another normal person at the end of the day.”
Even Fuentes was gallant in defeat.
“He walked straight up to me and congratulated me,” Hawkes said.
“The fact that he’d just missed his last target, that was pretty big of him.”
Sticking to their guns
Several Australian juniors also took out medals at the FITASC championships, with Gabe Sensi winning the Junior World Title, and Acacio Mota coming second.
Hawker said this success was good for the sport.
“I think for a little shooting country, I’d say we did quite well compared to some of the European countries,” he said.
“We’ve had some good success and good shooters in Australia for a long time but probably not the depth that some of these European countries have.”
And he said the news had been particularly well-received back in Kaniva.
“I’ve received a lot of messages over the past few days from mates back home,” Hawker said.
“Everyone was paying pretty close attention, I think, once they knew the position I was in going into the last day.”