At the Summer Olympics, elite athletes from all over the world come together to compete in a range of multidisciplinary sports, some of which you’ve probably never heard of.
One of those unique sports is indoor pistol shooting – a discipline of precision, concentration and accuracy – and if you tune into Tokyo this summer you’ll find Eleanor Bezzina out on the range, poised and ready with a pistol in hand.
Bezzina is one of two Maltese athletes who have officially been selected to represent Malta in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and she will do so in a sport that is unbeknownst to many locals.
“I am always interested to try a new venture, especially being a sports discipline, and the target shooting experience started out as a coincidence,” Bezzina told Lovin Malta.
“I joined an event to try clay pigeon shooting at Bidnija Ranges. The late Lawrence Darmanin invited us to have a look at the indoor range where people practice air pistol and air rifle shooting.”
“It was the first time I heard of these sporting disciplines. I used to practice water polo and netball and shooting wasn’t part of my plan but with Lawrence’s enthusiasm, and my excitement to try a new sport, I started practicing and I’ve never looked back,” she said.
Bezzina’s journey into the world of indoor pistol shooting began in October 2009. Since then, she has won two golds and one silver at the Games of the Small States of Europe.
She also represented Malta in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio – making her an athlete of experience and confidence.
But what is pistol shooting?
Bezzina has gone on to make a name for herself in two categories – the 10m Air Pistol and 25m Sport Pistol.
In Air Pistol, athletes shoot 60 pellets from a distance of 10 metres. In Sport Pistol, athletes shoot outdoors using a .22 bullet and from a distance of 25 metres. There are a total of 60 shots, half of which is precision and the other half being rapid.
The aim of the game is to hit as many ‘10s’ as possible, or in layman terms – go for the bullseye.
“The sport is about concentration and high precision,” Bezzina continued.
“I train shooting technique and skills three to four times a week with one of the sessions simulating a competition. I also do physical training two times a week, which includes five to 10km runs and a session of lightweights,” she said.
In addition to working full time at the University of Malta, Bezzina will make time for her two-hour training sessions, during which she will focus on the rhythm of the shot, trigger pressing, dry firing and more.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a spanner in the works, Bezzina was unable to adhere to her strict training regime and was forced to improvise at home, using everyday items to mimic a shooting range.
“I had to adopt a training regime at home using an iron board to calculate the same position for shooting and a paper target for aiming purposes,” she continued. “I couldn’t shoot at home so I used to practice in dry firing mode, which is when no pellets or bullets are fired.”
“The feeling and environment are totally different from the range, but at least the shooting technique was the same.”
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted athletes across the globe with a number of international competitions postponed until next year as countries battled a second wave of the virus.
However, Maltese athletes found themselves at a greater disadvantage than their foreign counterparts when health authorities enforced a total ban on organised sports earlier this year.
“A few weeks ago I competed in the European Championships. I had doubts whether I was still competitive, but I placed 16th out of 77 shooters and missed the final round by just two points,” she said.
Bezzina will head up to Croatia next week where she’ll compete at the ISSF World Cup. It will be her final competition before the highly-anticipated Olympic Games. While she hasn’t had much competition time this year, she’s willing to give it her all.
“Olympics are the highest level of competition and I will compete with the best shooters of the world. I will surely give my utmost and my aim is to give a good performance,” she said.
Bezzina will join Matthew Abela as the two athletes representing Malta at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Many more are vying for a spot but with so many barriers placed in front of local athletes, for many making it to the Games is a long shot.
“One major difficulty we have locally is that sport is considered as a hobby, something to do if we have extra time,” Bezzina said.
“We lack sports culture. In recent years improvements have been made but much more needs to be invested in our youngsters in order to produce elite athletes. We need to think of sports as employment if we want athletes to make it to the Olympics and get good results,” she ended.
The Summer Olympics Games kicks off in Tokyo on 23rd July with Malta expected to announce its final contingent for the event imminently.
Tag someone who loves sports