James ready for Olympics next year

By Robert Muir

With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games until July next year well known local sporting identity James Willett will now focus on giving himself the best chance to realise his dream – to be a gold medallist in the Olympic Games.

That’s because on the family farm between Mulwala and Corowa, near Drain Lane, a new layout has just been constructed. It is a most impressive combined Olympic Trap and Olympic Skeet layout. 

“We already had the skeet installed on our range but have now upgraded it and superimposed it with an Olympic Trap,” Willett told The Yarrawonga Chronicle last week.

“The range is of the same standard across the world and set up the same, so I can train on the range and replicate the same targets we shoot everywhere.

“It is fully electronic and automatic so once the clay target machines are set and loaded with targets, it is all voice activated the same as any competition across the globe.”

The Olympic Trap layouts which are open on a regular basis for training are mainly located in the bigger cities.

Willett, 24, normally has to travel to Melbourne to train on Olympic Trap. Sydney has the range where the Olympics were held in 2000 at Cecil Park. There are probably a dozen or so Olympic Trap layouts across Australia. 

“We had built our smaller Double Trap/Universal Trap range which has five clay target machines in it late 2014,” he said. “This was built for Double Trap mainly but was only a smaller layout due to the large cost involved in building Olympic Trap ranges.

“So after 2016 when Double Trap was removed from the Olympics I had to switch to Olympic Trap. I was able to train on our old layout but it wasn’t quite the same and still required a fair bit of travel to Melbourne to keep up with the best in the world.”

The ‘Shelford’ farm property was upgraded in a big way accordingly, with construction of the new layout starting on November 5 last year, a brilliant project taking five months to complete.

The main plan with the range now is obviously for the star international to train on and best prepare himself for many important events both domestically and internationally, and ultimately the next few Olympic cycles as shooting is a sport where he could stay competing for many years. 

“Opportunities will now be available to help new shooters practise and train on Olympic Trap and offer a new range to many rural shooters and I will run some coaching events on the range,” Willett said. 

“Some fellow competitors and Olympians will use the range when possible as I am sure many will like coming away to the great area we have at Yarrawonga/Mulwala and Corowa.

“I would like to expand it in the future and run it like many ranges which operate in Europe which will accommodate many different styles of clay target shooting.”

He has received considerable local and international support with the range project to get it completed, emphasising his sincere appreciation of the support from everyone who has contributed in some way.

“There are so many contributors but the clay target machines and electronics have a value of over $100,000 which were sponsored by Promatic in the UK, the construction was completed by Focus Engineering & Construction in Corowa and electrical done by Gary Palmer in Wodonga,” Willett said.

“I had great support from the Central Murray Credit Union and also Pinner’s Refrigeration. Thank you also to many of my other sponsors, friends and family who assisted me in constructing the range.”

At standard costing an Olympic Trap and Skeet layout would sit somewhere between $250,000-$500,000 depending on how it is constructed. 

Totally dedicated to his sport, Willett began clay target shooting competitions some 12 years ago, back in 2008-2009 when his dad, Arthur Willett, taught him how to shoot.

Willett junior began clay target shooting as a school sport at Corowa High School, progressing to competitions on weekends and making his first international team in 2014 as a junior with many winning world cup performances thereafter. He has also represented his country at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 making the final and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

“The dream of winning the Olympic Games is probably one of the biggest reasons for me staying in the sport,” he said.

“Obviously it’s a massive task (by the IOC) to move the biggest sporting event in the world to another time so we just wait now to see.

“From here I will set my new plan and goals as I work towards a massive 2021 year. As for our shooting schedule now it is all on hold while we are going through this very difficult time worldwide.

“A huge thank you to my local sponsors for their continued support of my sporting career, CMCU, Cobram/Yarrawonga Toyota and Hargraves Secured Investments.”