Shooting tournament brings international feel

Suzy Balogh is not only from another country, she’s from a part of the world that is now in its winter season.

The Australian native has spent the last week in Kerrville preparing for the women’s trap competition in the ISSF World Cup, which is taking place at the Hill Country Shooting Sports Center.

While it is in the 30s or 40s in Australia, Balogh is enjoying the warm climate in Texas, among other things.

This weather is similar to Australia weather in November, Balogh said. It’s lovely and very pretty here. I love Texas. The people here are very friendly, and the shooting range here has to be one of the top 10 in the country.

Balogh, a self-confessed daddy’s girl, learned the sport from her father at a young age.

Although she has spent much of the last week training to win the same event in which she won a gold medal during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Balogh has found time to get away for some tourism.

One of my favorite spots is the (San Antonio) Riverwalk, she said. It’s really beautiful.

Balogh is among many competitors representing 50 countries in the World Cup, which concludes today.

Balogh said the biggest difference between shooting ranges in Australia and the HCSSC is the number of shooting layouts each facility has. In Australia, the shooting ranges have three layouts, whereas the HCSSC has five.

The HCSSC is the largest international shooting range in the U.S., according to Dom Grazioli of San Antonio. He also said the only other international shooting range comparable to the size of the HCSSC is the shooting center in Colorado Springs, Colo., which has four layouts.

You have to have a facility like this that’s big enough to hold this many shooters, Graziani said. This (HCSSC) is definitely fit for holding a tournament of this capacity.

Graziani said he lives just 45 minutes from the HCSSC and drives from his home in Northwest San Antonio regularly to train.

I’ve been coming out here since it opened (in 2000), he said. This is my shooting home away from home.

Kerrville is one of four hosts for the World Cup. The other three World Cup tournaments are in China, Egypt and Germany. The one in China already occurred.

While Graziani loves the convenience of living close to a shooting range, there’s another reason he likes the HCSSC.

The best thing about this range is it gives U.S. Shooters a home-court advantage,” he said. It’s great not having to deal with time changes and being sleep-deprived. We do better when we’re well-rested.

Graziani has been in the sport since he was 10, and trained at a facility in San Antonio before it closed its doors in 1995. During the next five years, Graziani struggled to find training time because of no facilities.

I would arrive at the competitions three days early just to get my training in, he said. People would look at me and say, What are you doing? But that was the only training I got in during those five years.

Graziani competes in the men’s trap.

The competitors are vying for a quota berth in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The winner of each event gets the quota unless he or she earned the quota in an earlier tournament.

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