By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
In a sport that wishes it had the margin of error to be decided by inches, one shot a millimetre closer to the target landed a Strathmore product on the junior national team.
Last summer, Sam Walstra needed to record a cut score of 393.3 or better to qualify for the Junior National Air Rifle 10-metre team. While competing at nationals in Cookstown, Ont., she recorded a 394, breaking the barrier for the national team by a shot or two.
“Being named to the Shooting Federation of Canada Junior National Team means access to national resources, including the Junior National Coach, sport science training webinars and training clinics, as well as being invited to represent Canada on an international stage,” said Susan Eymann, a provincial shooting coach who currently works with Walstra.
Nationals were back in the summer, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that Walstra was contacted by the Canadian Shooting Federation (CSF), inviting her to join the program.
“I was really excited when I heard I got invited to the team. I have had a lot of friends over the years shoot for the national team and they kept telling me how cool it was,” said Walstra, a Grade 11 student at Strathmore High School. “Now I get to find out for myself.”
The events that followed her announcement weren’t anticipated, as weeks of email exchanges went back and forth between the Walstra family and the CSF.
“We didn’t know a lot of the details that came with it, so we had to read a lot, learn some new things and sign a lot of forms,” said Walstra.
Now that her head is cleared of all that annoying paperwork, she has already begun training for whatever the national team requires.
Being a member of the national shooting team isn’t as glamorous as being a member of the national hockey team. There are no centres of excellence in which to train, the team doesn’t fund travel plans, and in order to learn about new strategies or training regimes, the athlete must attend webinars periodically.
None of that seems to bother Walstra, as she has already completed a webinar earlier in the month to learn about a new workout program, focusing on core and mental strength.
The focus these days is about training and continually building her craft as a shooter. Grand Prix competitions and World Cup events are never held locally and often take place across an ocean, which can be pricey to say the least.
“I recommend that all beginners in the national program head down to Colorado Springs (Colo.) and use the Olympic Training Centre there. It provides the experience of travelling across a border and competing with 50 athletes on the same shooting line,” said Eymann. “It provides them a chance to work on their own goals a little closer to home before heading over to Germany for a World Cup event.”
Walstra has contemplated the training centre in the States and will likely head down in December 2018. Right now, the shooting range in Calgary provides everything she needs to train and is much closer to home.
She even competed in the Memorial Match last weekend at the Calgary Shooting Centre and walked away with a pair of bronze medals; one in the women’s 10m and one in the mixed event with Calgarian Alan Pu.
There, she is familiar with the surroundings and coaching staff. But if she needs any advice on life with the national team, she doesn’t have far to go.
Lynda Kiejko is a member of the pistol team in Calgary and recently competed at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, placing 38th in the 10-metre pistol. While Kiejko is on the senior team, Walstra has no problem asking her for advice with junior national team inquiries.
Attending the Summer Olympics is on the radar for the 17-year-old, but that still lies even further away than the World Cup competitions. For now, Walstra has her foot in the door with the national team and access to the proper tools and advice to help turn her into a national shooting prospect.