Sharpshooter seeks the ultimate competition – and a little cash - Mar. 26, 2014
There’s a whirlwind of activity at the Dean household this week – or, in other words, situation normal.
On Monday night, Dean was preparing for an evening practice at the St. Croix Sportsman Club shooting range, but her mind was already flitting to Friday, when she will leave for the Junior Olympic Trials in Fort Benning, Ga.
Facing Dean, the teenage shooting phenom, will be many other young women of the same or better skills – Dean estimates about 15 – all competing for two spots in the Junior Olympics.
“We have to try out against everybody else from North America and South America,” Dean declared.
Dean is but one of two Canadians competing in the event, testament to the St. Stephen youth’s ascendance into the ranks of national- and international-level competition.
So even as she thinks about an evening practice, she’s also thinking about packing and making sure everything is ready.
“I don’t think you every get fully prepared. There’s still that mental factor you have to work in there, but physically prepared, I am a lot better than I was a year ago.”
Her explanation is simple.
“A year ago, I walked into an international competition and I didn’t know what to expect,” she said, recalling a trip in the spring of 2013 to Australia for an international event.
Then, she “Didn’t know what to bring, where to go,” first-time worries that affected her mental preparation. That, along with a serious hassle having to totally disassemble her air rifle before it was allowed on the flight to Australia – and then, without knowing fully how, she had to reassemble it for competition.
Now, at least, she’s figured out what she can and cannot bring across the border.
“Now I am a lot more physically prepared. I have all my gear, all my paperwork, and I know what I am doing.”
As of yet, she’s still finding the mental preparation a challenge.
“I’m still nervous.”
That doesn’t worry her much. In recent events, she’s rubbed shoulders –literally –with Olympians who still grow nervous before competitions.
“I am hoping I become more calm, but that’s more of the experience.”
At this moment, the teen is focusing on controlling the energy.
The last few years have been momentous for Dean, whose family moved to the region from the West Coast. She was introduced, rather casually, to shooting at the local air gun club. That casual meeting has led to Dean’s elevated status as an international competitor who, herself, now harbours lofty goals.
Her future goals are now, quite simple: the Olympics, either in 2016 or 2020.
“When I started, I had no idea I would be travelling to national competitions, let alone international competitions,” Dean reflected.
One challenge, however, lies in basic dollars and cents (or, more accurately these days, dollars and nickels), because though she is one of the best air-gun shooters in Canada, Dean receives no federal funding.
Indeed, only three shooters do: and all are male.
Which means her mother, (“bank of mother,” Dean quipped), has taken over the role of seeking grants and donations.
“It’s all self-funded,” explained Dean. “It’s a hat-in-hand deal, going around fundraising.”
Her trip, last year, was largely community funded, with various businesses assisting in the call.
“There will be another time when I will need to come to the community,” said Dean.
To be funded, she must be recommended to the federal government as an athlete worthy of support by the Shooting Federation of Canada. It’s unlikely to happen, however, given that some Canadians competing in the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, had to pay some or all of their expenses.
For a youngster in the southwest corner of New Brunswick, financial limitations have already affected decisions as to when and where to compete.
“If I am offered three competitions all over the world, do I have the funding for that?,” Dean explains of her thought process. “I had to turn down Korea, last year, because it wasn’t in the equation.”
Hence, the forthcoming weekend is a critical one, even if she doesn’t gain a berth at the Youth Olympics, as a solid outing will assist any future calls for federal funding.
In the meantime, the activity will only continue.
A day after returning from Georgia, Dean will go to Nova Scotia for the Nova Scotia provincials, which also serves as the Canada Games trials for New Brunswick.
In the first weekend of May, the North Atlantic Championships, which will be held in St. Stephen.
After that event, in the last week of May, Dean will head for Germany, for the first-ever Junior World Cup.
Anyone wishing to assist financially can contact Don Brown at the St. Croix Sportsman Club at 466-3377.