Limestone Coast shooters make the grade

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Mount Gambier shooter Bridgette McKinnon is pleased to have been included in the National Pathways Squad for shotgun, with further opportunities to improve in her chosen sport.

By Trevor Jackson

TWO Mount Gambier shooters have been named in a group of 54 athletes to make the Australia national Shooting Squad.

Bridgette McKinnon and Doyle Yoannidis were among the large contingent of up-and-comping shooters named in the three-tiered training structure.

Both were selected in the Pathways Squad for shotgun, which provides training to athletes who are considered capable of achieving national team selection based on their performances in domestic competition and demonstrated commitment to becoming a high-performance athlete.

McKinnon and Yoannidis were both surprised with their selections, although both have competed at high levels in recent years.

McKinnon said she was excited about the opportunity to train with the national coach and some of Australia’s best competitors, which she hoped would improve her consistency.

“I hope to get a lot more consistent scores so I can compete at a high level consistently,” she said.

“At the moment I will shoot one competition really well and the next one won’t be as good.

“Even just competing against the other shooters at the Shooting Australia competitions really brings you up.”

At just 22 years of age McKinnon has been competing for around six years, with international experience under her belt.

She said she began with local club competition, before her coach introduced her to the ISSF system, which she said improved her shooting greatly.

“I feel since I started I have come quite far,” she said.

“We started in the American skeet discipline which is like club level and after doing that for a few years our coach Guy Yoannidis started teaching us how to do the ISSF, which is the Olympic standard.

“Making that transition was like starting again and you had to learn new skills.

“That was a huge step for me.”

McKinnon currently lives at St Annes College in North Adelaide and is in her fourth year studying medicine, which throws up its own challenges.

“That has been a bit tricky but at the university I am lucky enough to be supported by their elite athlete program,” she said.

“They give us exemptions, so if I am away travelling I might have longer to do an assessment or they might change an exam time for me so I can do my assessments and my competitions as well.”

McKinnon said she was still not sure of the exact commitments at this stage, considering the squad was only announced a few days ago.

However, she was pleased just to have the chance.

“Everyone I train with in the Mount applied for it but it was just me and Doyle who were accepted,” she said.

“I wasn’t really expecting it and I was very excited, for sure.”

At 19 years of age Yoannidis was just as excited, despite his involvement with the sport over the years through his father.

“I think it will give me and Bridgette a lot more opportunity to shoot,” he said.

“With the COVID situation we haven’t been able to shoot too much, so hopefully Shooting Australia will give us a few more opportunities.”

Yoannidis said he had been involved with the Shooting Australia discipline for around three years but admitted he had a long way to go in the sport.

“I am really only cracking the surface at the moment,” he said.

“I have shot at a few nationals but no international events yet.”

The opportunities through this new program should set Yoannidis on a course to follow his dream for which he has a desired outcome long term.

“It sounds stupid to say it but the Olympics would be an end goal for me,” he said.

“It sounds unrealistic at the moment but with time it could be done.”

Originally Yoannidis was not going to apply for the position with the national squad.

But he said with encouragement he did and was glad he made the decision.

“I put in an application because I was encouraged to and then Bridgette messaged me and asked if I got an email to say I was in,” he said.

“I am excited about it.

“I know a lot of the shooters who made the top two squads.

“Hopefully shooting with them and being around them helps push me up a bit.

“Me an Bridgette have come up through this together … she has had a few more opportunities with World Cups and stuff.

“It will be nice to go through this with her.”