Junior shooters give struggling sport life

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

As is the case with most sports, the lifeline of trapshooting lies with the younger generation.

There was a time when junior shooters were scarce in this country, putting the future of the sport in jeopardy.

However, this week there is a number of juniors taking part in the 2006 Canadian Trapshooting Championships being held at the Strathcona Shooting Range.

"This is the best year to come out and say that we have strong junior shooters," said George Leary, head coach of the national team. "We've been able to entice juniors to come out and shoot. In years gone past we haven't. We've been relying on shooters like Susan (Nattrass) and myself and other shooters that have been around for years and years."

ONE OF THE BIGGEST HURDLES

Getting kids out to the limited number of ranges in the country is one of the biggest hurdles in attracting junior shooters for the Shooting Federation of Canada.

The Strathcona range is one of the premier facilities in the country, built for the 1978 Commonwealth Games. However, the 2006 national championships are the last major event being held at the range before the doors close as the city is taking back the land located south just off 50th Street.

"This was a facility we could use and it was readily available and now it's not going to be here anymore," Leary said. "After this competition it's done. We're left with Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon - but apparently that's closing - Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal."

Another barrier in attracting younger marksmen is the lack of funding. The national association has a budget of $50,000 for the entire year. Considering it costs roughly $20,000 per shooter to attend international events, it's not nearly enough.

POINTS BIG FOR OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION

In order to qualify for Olympic competitions, shooters must accumulate points in World Cup and World Championship events.

There are four World Cup events and a World Championship every year. Attending all the events can get pricey.

"What we need is more sponsorship," said Nattrass, who recently won her seventh world title in Zagreb, Croatia. "I believe we were the only team at the world championships that were self-funded. Everyone paid their own airfare and hotels, practice ammo, everything themselves.

"Granted we have some very committed people and we work hard in order to go and shoot, but for us to get going we need some sponsors and we need to keep encouraging the young people to come out and showing them how to do it right."


Videos

Photos