What it’s like to be a Canadian sport shooter

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I love Canada. This is my home.

Who am I? I have a full-time job, have tried 900+ beers, love sports, and am a self-funded athlete who represents Canada internationally in shooting.

Photo courtesy Allan Harding

A lot of people don’t know shooting is an Olympic sport, or that it was one of the first nine sports of the modern Olympic Games held in 1896. My goal is to represent Canada in shooting at the 2020 Olympics.

I’ve been competing internationally since 2012 and have represented Canada in Italy, Germany, Spain, Brazil, China, Mexico, USA, Slovenia, and South Korea. Target shooting has given me opportunities to see places and experience cultures I never thought I’d see.

There is a lot of paperwork and laws to follow in this sport. There is a thorough licensing process that needs to be followed and you need to be a member of a range and go through their orientation and safety courses.

Every competition I travel to has even more paperwork and planning with regards to getting my firearms from here to there. I am transporting a restricted firearm, which means I need authorization from the RCMP. I let them know information like hotel, flight details, and where I’m driving. This is all on the Canada side. Once at an airport, there are more forms, security checks.

When I land in another country, I’m met by airport security and police and serial numbers, which have been sent in advance, are cross-checked with my firearms. Ammunition is counted. A lot to do.

Shooting has always been an anchor for me when navigating life’s ebbs and flows. At the stormiest of times with failure and loss it’s been something I could always go to. It has been the one thing that could never be taken away from me.

There’s a moment of total freedom when I’m about to shoot and I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. That moment when all the noise from the world escapes and I calm my mind. Visualize. Slowly inhale. Eyes open. Arm raises. Sights line up. Focus. Trigger. Shot breaks. Follow through. Then repeat the whole process.

There are no deadlines, no taxes, no schedule, no alarm clocks, or rush hour traffic…There is me and a target separated by time and space… and I send a projectile through the air to hit a bullseye that’s smaller than a dime.

To me, getting better at shooting is getting better at life. My equipment is nearly perfect, so I know that any shot which isn’t perfect means there is some human error. Something to improve. Something to learn. An opportunity to grow.

Who am I? I’m one of millions of responsible people around the world who enjoy target shooting.

Allan Harding is from B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, and is the 2018 Canadian National Pistol Champion. Follow him on Twitter @alharding.