Plumpton shooter Thomas Armstrong stunned himself and the world with victory at the World Universal Trench shooting championships in France recently.
Representing Australia for just the second time, the 17-year-old held his nerve to win the junior event.
It was only when he led the event heading into the final day of competition that he realised he was in with a chance of winning.
“I’d been shooting well over here and was confident that I would go alright,” he said.
“Coming into the last day I was leading which was a bit of a surprise. I came hoping to get more exposure in a big event.
“The nerves were getting pretty bad. I didn’t want to be the person who stuffed it up.”
Armstrong held his nerves during his final round, focusing on things other than the result. With either a gold or silver medal secured having shot 189 out of 200, Armstrong went and watched an Aussie teammate shoot, to keep his attention occupied while the final shooters shot in his competition.
“Three or four people came running down and said I had won,” he said.
“I had to go double check as I didn’t believe them.”
That wasn’t the end of his trip to Europe, with Armstrong then travelling to Italy to compete in the Italian Cup ISSF trap competition – an Olympic discipline.
He shot 119 out of 125 in qualification and an impressive 45 out of 50 in the single barrel final to claim the gold medal in the junior section. The qualification score was enough to make the senior final as well but he wasn’t allowed to compete in both.
Armstrong said having previously represented Australia, it made things a lot easier the second time and he was more prepared for what to expect.
He said while the win doesn’t get him entry into any events, it would help put his name out there. “It helps get my name out in Australia and people get to know who I am,” he said.
“Most selections are based on results, but who you know might get you a few more opportunities.”
The gold medal adds to the one he won at the World DTL Championships in Ireland last year. Competing for Australia, he won a team gold with two other shooters in the junior event.
One of the most promising shooters in the country, Armstrong has already been selected in his second World Championship team, to be held in Wagga Wagga next year.
He has been named junior team captain.
Armstrong said the fact the competition is in Wagga Wagga could work in his favour. He’s competed at that venue a number of times, including most recently on the weekend.
“The pressure is already off being selected for that team,” he said.
“I’ll be a bit more comfortable knowing the environment and having shot there. It’s a real honour to represent your country at home.”