Each member of Australia’s Para-shooting Team for Tokyo 2020 will draw on their previous Paralympic experiences when they compete at the Asaka Shooting Range in what is destined to be a Games like no other.

The three-person Team was unveiled by Paralympics Australia on Tuesday and will seek to win Australia’s first gold medal in the sport since Seoul 1988.

World Championship silver medallist Anton Zappelli, London 2012 bronze medallist Natalie Smith and 2016 Games fourth-place finisher Chris Pitt each have at least one Paralympic campaign under their belt.

“It definitely helps that we’ve each competed at a Paralympics before,” Zappelli said. “In my case, Rio was really just a taste of what it’s all about and the whole experience of competing at that level. You can’t compare it to anything else. It was a real eye-opener for me.

“This will be different because of the circumstances. It’s been a strange lead-up but, as far as the way the competition is run and the people we’re competing against, I think we’ll all be more comfortable.”

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Having competed at the Paralympics previously may help the Para-shooters but it’s notable these will be the first Games in nearly 50 years in which Libby Kosmala will not participate. Kosmala attended an extraordinary 12 Paralympic Games and won nine gold and three silver medals in Para-shooting before retiring from international competition after Rio.

“Libby was always a wealth of knowledge for us,” Zappelli said. “It’ll feel a bit different not having her around, definitely. But it’s there for us to try and set our own history now.”

Australian Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin is backing this Team to begin a new era of success.

“Libby’s retirement left a huge hole and that sort of experience can’t be replaced,” McLoughlin said. “Yet, looking at the credentials of the three Para-shooters we’ve announced today and the way they’ve gone about preparing for Tokyo, it’s clear they’re absolutely ready to step up and put Australia among the world’s best nations in the sport.

“I look forward to supporting Anton, Nat and Chris throughout this campaign so they can focus on performing at their very best.”

Smith will compete in the R2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing and, teaming with Zappelli, the R3 mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone. Zappelli will also contest the R6 mixed 50m Rifle Prone. Pitt will compete in the P1 men’s 10m Air Pistol and the P3 mixed 25m Pistol.

“This Team represents the very best of Australian Para-shooting, a sport in which we’ve won 25 medals including 15 gold since it was introduced to the Games in 1976,” Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said.

“Congratulations to this fabulous trio of Para-athletes, welcome to the Australian Paralympic Team and thank you to everyone at Shooting Australia who’s worked incredibly hard to ensure we’re sending a strong and well prepared Team to Tokyo.”

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Zappelli thanked Shooting Australia on behalf of his teammates and wanted to specially mention former Para-shooting Head Coach Miroslav Sipek.

“I owe him a lot,” Zappelli said. “We were all under Miro and, though we all had our other coaches too, I feel really lucky to have been coached by him. Hopefully I can come away with a medal in Tokyo and make him proud.”

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 20 July 2021