Mon | Jun 17, 2019

Jamaican shooters facing uphill task

Published:Friday | May 24, 2019 | 12:10 AMMaurice Silvera/Gleaner Writer
Italian skeet shooting coach Raffaele Bianco gives instruction to Shaun Barnes (left) and Christian Sasso at the Jamaica Skeet Club in Portmore, St Catherine recently during a training session ahead of the Pan American Games that will be held in Lima, Peru, in July.
Italian skeet shooting coach Raffaele Bianco gives instruction to Shaun Barnes (left) and Christian Sasso at the Jamaica Skeet Club in Portmore, St Catherine recently during a training session ahead of the Pan American Games that will be held in Lima, Peru, in July.

Italian Raffaele Bianco, the man charged with guiding national shotgun champion Christian Sasso and Shaun Barnes in their preparations for the upcoming Pan American Games, says both men are faced with monumental challenges if they are to return a good showing.

Bianco pointed to a lack of proper equipment and enough opportunities to practise as major hurdles facing the Jamaican pair ahead of the games, which take place in Lima, Peru, from July 26 to August 11, 2019.

The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) coach was enlisted to assist with improving the technique of the shooters. Both Jamaicans are many-time champions locally in the sporting clays discipline. However, Sasso will be looking to compete in the Olympic trap shooting discipline,while for Barnes, it will be Olympic skeet.

Both disciplines present different competitive circumstances to the men from that of sporting clays.

Bianco expressed to The Gleaner the challenges he was having with the preparations.

“From what I saw, the potential of Christian Sasso is very high,” Bianco told us. “He, however, does not have sufficient equipment for training in trap. For example, here we have only one multi-directional machine available. The sporting discipline is different from the Olympic skeet andtrap discipline, and we are working on changing their shooting technique.

“What I suggest is if they want to continue in the ISSF shotgun ­discipline, they have to stop ­competing in sporting. It is absolutely counterproductive,” Bianco said.

Bianco also took issue with the cost of ammunition locally, stating that it costs far less in Europe to execute training and competitions.

“Elite shooters around the world in trap usually shoot 60,000 to 80,000 cartridges for the year, [and] for skeet it is usually more than 100,000,” he noted. “These two guys have not shot even 10,000 cartridges. A box of ammunition in Europe is something like €60-70. Here, it is like €200. They need to be able to go overseas to be exposed. Here, they usually shoot alone, but when they go to the competition, you are with five people shooting. It changes the environment, the timing and everything.”

UNFORTUNATE

Jordan Samuda, president of the Jamaica Skeet Club, described the situation as unfortunate. He stated that the association was working assiduously to develop the infrastructure for Olympic trap shooting locally but was undone by the timing of the announcement of the pair’s intention to compete at the games.

“The announcement that they were selected to compete in two wild-card spots at the games was made in February,” Samuda said. “The association is aware of the problem posed for trap shooting locally, and we are actively addressing the acquisition of the machines. We plan on upgrading our facilities to enable training locally for both disciplines.”

Despite the obstacles faced by the two men, Bianco lauded their talent as promising. The trio were involved in an intense training session at the Jamaica Skeet Club in Portmore last Saturday. The Italian thinks that Jamaica can be a serious contender in both disciplines in the years to come if granted the proper access to coaching and equipment.

“There are steps that are absolutely necessary to improving performance and getting shooters to peak level of performance in the period of competition,” said Bianco. “There are usually two-three peaks within a given year for an individual. The coaches and mental trainers need to be able to bringout a shooters ‘peak’ at the right time. Without proper coaching, this heightened competition cannot be maintained consistently.”

Sasso echoed similar feelings to those of Bianco. He said he needed more practice time in order to be in medal contention at the upcoming games. This, however, has not dampened his confidence.

“I always give my best,” he said. “Where I stand right now, I am sure I can hold my own in the competition.”