Talented Wonthaggi Gun Club member Dakota Suckling is a picture of concentration as she competes at a training event organised by the Gippsland Sports Academy at Korumburra last Sunday. She’ll soon be leading a Wonthaggi Secondary College team in a regional and state schools event. M653017

Commonwealth Games triple gold medal winner Lauryn Mark and Olympic Gold Medal winning husband Russell check out some of the guns being used in competition at Korumburra last weekend. M643017

Former Australian Olympian and USA national champ, Lauryn Mark, keeps a close eye on the shooting technique of Aaron McKenzie of Korumburra during a training day locally last Sunday. M673017

YOU know those wrap-around, light-enhancing sunglasses that clay target shooters wear during competition?
They cost around $1000 each, so you wouldn’t want to sit on a pair when you get into the car!
And that’s just for starters.
Competing in this Olympic sport, even at a club level, can be relatively expensive, with a good shotgun setting you back anything from $3000 to $30,000, clay targets costing up to 30¢ a pop, cartridges 34¢ each, plus the cost of memberships, travel and coaching.
And it can cost upwards of $300 a week for targets and shells when you’re in serious training.
But it’s like anything, you get out of it what you put into it.
And last Sunday at the Korumburra Gun Club, members of the elite Gippsland Sports Academy’s Clay Target Shooting program could see a clear path ahead to state, national and even international competition when they had the benefit of some high-level coaching by none other than Atlanta Olympic Games Gold Medallist Russell Mark and former Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Lauryn Mark.
It might have been cold and showery out on the range, but no one was missing this opportunity to improve their technique and their mental approach to the sport.
“By the time you get to world championship and Olympic level, everyone standing up there is capable of hitting all the targets,” said Russell Mark.
“Even at state and national level, they’re all very good, so once you’ve done all the training and preparation, it often comes down to what you’ve got going on in your head.
“And if you can control what that little guy is saying in your head, you can perform to your optimum level.
“That’s a lot of what we are doing today, learning how to deal with the pressure of competition. So we’ve set up a short series of competition with qualifying and a winner at the end so we can play some of that out.”
There are 12 young trap shooters from all over Gippsland in the program, winning through to this elite opportunity from 30 to 35 applicant, according to GSA Executive Officer Jim Vivian, including Aaron McKenzie (skeet) of the Korumburra Gun Club, Dakota Suckling (DTL) of Wonthaggi, Cooper Goodwin (DTL) Wonthaggi and Jack Stockdale of Korumburra (DTL), who is presently competing at the World Junior Titles in Texas.
“We’re very fortunate to have Russell and Lauryn as the inaugural coaches of this our first clay target shooting program. They’ve been fantastic,” he said.
“The main driver of the program has been David Jones of Lakes Entrance, father of Aislin, who competed at the Rio Olympics at the age of 16. She’s competing overseas at the moment.”
David and a group of other supportive parents were there on the day.
“We’ve got some excellent young shooters in Gippsland and giving them the confidence to take their interest in the sport as far as they can was the motivation,” said Mr Jones.
Russell took the Down The Line group with him while Lauryn worked with the others on the skeet range at the Korumburra Gun Club.
Even as the rain continued to tumble down, six young shooters took aim at the targets coming from a central location on the DTL range, calling “pull” as their turn came and knocking them down with hardly a miss. It was impressive.
At the skeet range, single shooters went through their high, low, double drill with Lauryn watching closely and adding tips along the way.
A three time Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist in Women’s Skeet, Lauryn was the youngest ever winner of the national title in the USA before hooking up with Russell and competing for Australia at the 2004 Olympics where she finished fourth.
“Thanks for reminding me,” said Lauryn with a grin.
It was a very valuable opportunity and the academy members have several more like it at Frankston, Bairnsdale and Korumburra again, together with access to the psychological, nutrition and strength and conditioning programs available across the sporting disciplines offered by the academy; golf, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, netball and now, clay target shooting.
Expect to see a few more Aislin Jones’s rising through the ranks from Gippsland in the next few years.
Russell started his rise to the top by accident in Ballarat as a 14 year old after he injured his leg playing footy and walked across to the clay target range at the sports complex and asked if he could have a shot.
Two years later he won his first national title, at age 16, shooting what was a record total at the time, leading to his selection in the Atlanta Olympic Team.
He won the gold, secured a professional contract with with the world’s leading firearm manufacturer, Beretta Italy, won numerous world and world cup events, met his wife through the sport and never worked another day as a real estate valuer.
“The sport has given me everything I have and allowed me to travel around the world doing what I love.”
The Marks hope to establish a number of academy programs around the state but will have to hand over coaching duties to others, so the present GSA alumni are a very fortunate group.
The Marks also operate a corporate experience called Go Shooting, check it out.
Next Saturday, August 5, they’ll be running a booked-out master class for 12 local shooters at Korumburra before turning their attention to the young GSA shooters again on Sunday, August 5.