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16 June 2001
'Young shooters hone skills at camp'
By Matt Rainson, Gazette Writer
PELKIE - From 50 yards away, the black circle on the target paper looks smaller than a quarter.
The sights on the pistol wobble and jump with every heartbeat and the gun feels heavy at the end of an unsupported arm. Then a whistle blows and the firing starts, loud on all sides, sharp explosions coming at random intervals - it's tough not to flinch.
Competitive shooting is harder than it looks.
But here at the recent Ottawa Sportsmen's Club Junior Shooting Sports Camp, kids 14 and up are learning to breathe, concentrate, relax and focus - and hone their skills at a challenging sport pursued avidly by its competitors.
"What we're doing is we're teaching shooting differently" said Ron Granroth, the camp director and coach.
"We're teaching as an athletic event. The title of the camp is the shooting sports camp - that's not accidental."
While competitive shooting might not get a lot of attention, it's not for a lack of opportunities available to the athletes who pursue it.
"There are 18 different Olympic medal events in shooting, and people are just plain unaware of it because the media doesn't cover it," Granroth said.
That's unfortunate, said the camp director, because competitive shooting can teach kids valuable skills that apply to the world at large, such as discipline, concentration, teamwork and safety. For Granroth, inspiration to organize this shooting sports camp came when he son, Davin, began to pursue the sport.
Davin, Granroth said, had attended a similar camp - it inspired Granroth to start his own and base it on a similar model.
His first camp, held at the Portage Lake Sportsmen's Club in 1996, "was really successful... So we did it again the following year."
But Granroth's not running a one-man show. "It takes a lot of volunteer effort," he said, to instruct 16 kids and keep them safe.
"There's literally one adult for every shooter, and that's important," Granroth continued. "This is hard work that these kids are doing. This is not like putting a tin can on a fence rail at 20 feet."
A lot of time at the camp is spent in the classroom, covering Olympic-class shooting techniques, and, most importantly, safety.
But there's also a chance to learn from some of the best. This year, Granroth's grandnephew Karl Granroth, and his wife Sara came to visit the camp. Karl and Sara are both international world-class biathletes who compete on the National Guard All Biathlete team and are currently in Marquette at the Olympic Training Center, getting ready to try out for the 2002 games.
"They had some free time and asked if they could help," Ron Granroth said. "Talk about role models for the kids."
For those involved, it's been a real learning experience, and some past camp participants have chosen to pursue the Sport after the week long session ends. One of those is Ben Seppala of Chassell. Seppala attended the camp several years ago, and has returned since then to volunteer.
Seppala has also continued to work on his shooting with Granroth, and this year will be going with Granroth and his son, also named Ben, to the National Championships, held by the NRA at Camp Perry, Ohio in July.
"I've been there before (as a volunteer)," Seppala said," but I haven't shot... So this will be kind of fun - my first year doing that."
He's looking forward to the competition, Seppala said, but he's still got some work to do to prepare.
"It's kind of a lot of training to do between now and then," he explained. "We've been shooting a lot. We were out shooting before camp started this morning."
Seppala said now that he volunteers at the camp, he has had a chance to seethe participants getting better as the week progresses.
"The improvement you see during the camp is really amazing" he said. "You improve a lot during just the week of the camp."
Jordan Asayag, who is participating at the camp for his second year in a row, seems to agree.
"They let me in when I was 13, last year," be said. "It was really fun. I've learned a lot and I figured I could use it this year and improve."
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