Cessnock shooter Olivia Erickson takes on world's best at Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires

The Australian team shirt and pistol in her hand are giveaways but on outward appearances nothing suggests that Olivia Erickson is anything but an ordinary Cessnock teenager.

However, she is one of the world’s best youth shooters and takes aim in the 10m air pistol at next week’s Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It only takes a few minutes into the interview, to realise Erickson is not your average 16-year-old and possesses a calm confidence to compete at international level.

There is not the slightest hint of cockiness or boasting, Erickson’s maturity is the product of years of dedicated training under her personal coach Steve Blackburn, from Cessnock, and national coach Vladimir Galiabovitch.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Not many people get this opportunity,” she said of her selection in the Youth Olympics and international competitions including the World Cup in Sydney.

”You know it’s awesome but you don’t think of it like that because it’s everything you’ve prepared to do.

“It really is like living two different worlds and it was quite hard to find the balance at first.”

But with the support of her friends and parents, Erickson is achieving her sporting goals and enjoying life as a teenager.

“It is quite hard with school as it is normally around exam time when I’m going away,” she said.

“I’d go away and I was stressed as I only had a week to prepare for exams, but I’m now finding how to get that balance with my friends, school and training.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Not many people get this opportunity.

Olivia Erickson

“Usually I come home from school and go straight to training and train for a few hours, come home, eat and study and get some sleep.

“My friends are really supportive and my parents are really, really supportive with it. They are my number one supporters.”

It’s when Erickson describes selection for the Australian team at the nationals that you get an inkling of just how much preparation and mental strength goes into succeeding.

“Selection was at the last nationals, it was between me and another girl who were very evenly matched,” she said..

“We both have the same coach, the national coach. He looked at us and said ‘Well, I’m not going to be here, I don’t want to be biased so good luck.

“We both looked at each other and were a bit scared actually as we were shooting next to each other as well.

“It was very nerve wracking. By the end I beat her by about 20 points. I was so happy. I was crying realising I had my ticket to go. 

“I think it is quite a mental sport as you need to concentrate on process rather than results.

“My coach Steve Blackburn has always told me what you do behind the target will determine the result.”

While the sport is about precision shooting and concentration, it takes long hours of training to be physically able to cope with the stresses of competition.

TAXING: Pistol shooting is a test of physical and mental stamina.

TAXING: Pistol shooting is a test of physical and mental stamina.

“The sport is to hold your stance and to hold your arm up with a weight on the end of it for long periods of time,” Erickson said.

“I’ve needed to train my back muscles a lot to hold me, I need to train my core a little bit for my stability and I’ve had to practice lifting weights over and over again to get the strength to hold me through a whole match. 

“You are holding out your arm and the only thing that moves is your finger you need to train your muscles to be so precise in the way you are holding yourself.

“It is quite precision, but its a quite difficult sport. It takes a lot of effort to keep yourself so calm and so still.

“Basically if you are doing everything right the target doesn’t matter because it will come back and show you how well you’ve done your process.”

Erickson said her competition starts on October 9 and the excitement was starting to build.

“I’ve got a few days to get myself accustomed to the range and I’m really excited as I will be able to take part in the opening ceremony.

“A field of 30 female shooters has qualified for the competition. I’m aiming for a spot in the final and see what happens from that. To be in the top eight of the juniors in the whole world would be amazing.

“If I get into the final then I know I have done well and accomplished everything that I set out to do in training.

“I don’t think anything can prepare you for the nerves that you get on the day. If I do everything right in my qualifications and make the final then every bit of training and all the effort will be worth it.”

Erickson said she owed so much to her family for their support and her two coaches.

“I've been very lucky to get sponsorship from PCM Enviro along the way to help me compete,” she said.

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