Shooting sensation Thomas Armstrong has put the icing on the cake of a stellar sporting year, being adjudged the 2017 Don Deeble Rising Star winner.
Armstrong was taken aback when his name was read out as the recipient of the prestigious award, named in honour of the late Don Deeble, one of Australia’s greatest baseballers, a pioneer of his sport and a product of Sunshine.
The award recognises sporting talent under the age of 21 from Melbourne’s west, including five council areas, Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton and Wyndham.
Armstrong, from Plumpton, described it as a huge honour to join a list of recipients that includes internationally renowned sports people such as athlete Morgan Mitchell and basketballers Dante Exum and Rachel Jarry, along with recent winners Maddison Rocci, Amelia Mazza-Downie and Dejan Vasiljevic.
Armstrong was quick to realise the incredible sporting talent in his company when he arrived at the Allegra Function Venue in St Albans on Wednesday night.
“I was reading the book with all the entrants at my table before and there was such a big range of athletes and sports represented,” Armstrong said.
“There was AFL top draft picks, girls that have represented high levels at a number of disciplines, so it was a real honour just to be amongst those kind of people.”
Armstrong had success on both the national and international stage last year.
The 17-year-old was part of a Victorian team that won at the Australian National Trap Championships with a perfect score of 250 out of 250.
Individually, Armstrong won his first national title in the points score competition, beating 500 other competitors with a jaw-dropping combined score of 298 of 300 targets hit.
Armstrong, a Werribee Victorian Clay Target Shooting Club member, took his talents to Europe later in the year, where he triumphed in the Italian Cup trap competition – an Olympic discipline – then took out a junior world title at the World Universal Trench shooting championships in France by a narrow two targets.
“Every shot counts,” Armstrong said.
“It all comes down to the practice we put in, we work on specific targets.
“It’s also a real credit to mum and dad for taking me everywhere and giving me the opportunity to train on all these different grounds and in different scenarios.”
This is just the start for Armstrong. He is already hard at work in anticipation of a huge 2018 season, starting with a world championship tilt in March.
Armstrong is keen to raise awareness of the sport in Australia while on his march towards an Olympic Games dream.
“It’s very popular overseas, especially in the European countries,” he said.
“Heading over there and winning events got me a lot of exposure and being a world event it gets me recognised a lot more.
“I’d love to be an ambassador for the sport here.”
Armstrong received $5000 for the 2017 Don Deeble Rising Star award, while Monique Conti (basketball/AFL football) and Nathan Pelissier (para table tennis) each pocketed $2500, all generously donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club.
Softballer Sam Reale and shot put/hammer thrower Julia Bourke received $1000 encouragement awards, courtesy of Bendigo Bank Strathmore.