They may be small fries in terms of firepower but Team SA’s air rifle shottists at the 2018 Commonwealth Games both want to leave their mark on Gold Coast, Australia. MARK ETHERIDGE reports from the Gold Coast.
Barto Pienaar and Pierre Basson (main picture) will take on some of the globe’s best sharpshooters when they fire off in the qualification rounds and their sights are set beyond the early round!
Pienaar, 25, hails from Weltevreden Park, Johannesburg and has been shooting for 13 years.
‘I started shooting air rifle at school and then after school, I also moved into .22 calibre,’ says Pienaar.
Explaining the difference in the two weapons, he went on: ‘The air rifle calibre is smaller, at 0.177 compared to .22 and also, the .22 uses powder compared to the air rifle which relies completely on air pressure.
‘You need a licence for a .22 but not an air rifle.’
Pienaar (pictured above) is ranked sixth in the Commonwealth rankings and Basson is one slot higher. Both those rankings were obtained at a World Cup competition in Munich, Germany last year where they also qualified for the Games.
Both shooters have to be eagle-eyed… after all the paper target is but 4.5 centimetres by 4.5 centimetres.
Try focusing on that target while standing 10m away!
‘Obviously the closer to the bull the more the points,’ says Pienaar, ‘but now it’s actually calculated down to decimals for more precise scoring.’
In the 10m air rifle competition, qualification will see shottists firing off 60 shots within the 1hr 15min period in the indoor venue.
That takes its toll when considered that even a humble air rifle could weigh up to 5.5kg with all accessories included.
It’s also not a cheap sport. ‘The rifle I shoot with is an Anschutz from Germany and, with everything included, can cost around R80,000.
‘It’s a very humbling sport. One minute you can be on top of the world, the next right back down to earth,’ says the graphic designer.
Basson comes from the other side of Egoli and lives in Benoni.
The 20-year-old has only been shooting for the last five years, having started at the Hoërskool Brandwag.
He also shoots with a Germany rifle, but his brand is a Feinwerkbau.
‘The pressure of shooting is so high that my first thought is to just try and get past the qualifying round.
‘But I’m definitely not only going to be happy with making the final… I certainly want to try for a medal.’
The two shooters have been competing against each other a fair deal since they finished school but mainly on the local circuit.
‘At the moment we’re the only two senior air rifle men competing at Protea level’, explains Basson, who is an interior draughtsman.
‘Ideally, we’d like to compete more often internationally but the cost of competing at just one World Cup is around R40,000. Just to enter costs 200 euros.’
In preparation for these Games, the two have been training seven days a week for up to four hours at a time.
‘We improvise all the time,’ says Basson, ‘sometimes we even use the passage at home if it’s long enough!’
Come next week and the two will hope all that practice ensures a smooth passage into the final!
Photos: Johan Pienaar