London Olympics hopeful will give it his best shot
BENEATH the rosy cheeks and innocent smile of Alistair Davis is a firearm fundi who pumps off shotgun rounds so fast he could have been a Wild West star.
Davis, 19, is a first-year B.Comm student at the University of Pretoria who will represent South Africa in the double trap competition at the London Olympics.
That's the one where the machine releases two clay targets simultaneously and Davis, with his double-barrelled shotgun, will blow them both out of the sky inside of a second.
At least 90% of the time.
"You don't need to be physically fit to do this," says Davis, the oldest of triplet siblings Martin and Jennifer.
"You need to be mentally fit. It's very easy to lose focus if you think about something else, like your end score.
"I've been seeing a sports psychologist who has shown me what to focus on and how to dismiss negative thoughts."
At the Games, each shooter will have three rounds of 50 targets - or 25 releases - for a maximum score of 150. The top six will advance into a 50-target final.
Double trap, to be held in London on August 2, is the only men's Olympic clay target discipline where no human has achieved a 100% record. At the Beijing Games, the top score going into the final was 145, followed by 141 and 140. Davis's best to date is 141, which he shot last month to qualify at a competition in Italy.
Over-optimism is the most common trait of young hopefuls heading off to their first Olympics, but this former Pretoria Boys High pupil has good reason to believe he has a realistic shot at a medal.
"I've shot with the best and beaten them in different competitions. On my day it's definitely a possibility."
He and coach, dad Frank, are one of two father-son combinations in SA's Olympic team, the other being in sailing.
Frank, Alistair and Martin were introduced to the sport some years ago while visiting an aunt for her 50th birthday bash at Hartebeespoort, where shooting was available for the guests. They fell in love with clay target shooting.
Martin was no slouch either, being selected alongside Alistair for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Dad's eye was not at the same level.
"I ended up being more of a coach than a shooter," admits Frank, who is tasked with, among other things, organising transport of the gun and cartridges.
To make sure Alistair gets his sponsored Beretta into England for the Olympics, Frank started applying for the necessary permits in December last year.
When they went to the world championships in Serbia last year, the luggage and gun arrived too late for practice, and that cost Davis who had to settle for 137, three short of the 140 he needed to qualify for London.
Davis, who also enjoys playing squash, insists the image of shotgun being the domain of oversized men is a misconception.
For one, he avoided playground scraps like the plague. "I'm the guy who tried to talk his way out of trouble."
Indeed, he looks like he wouldn't say boo to a goose, although he might choose to shoot it instead - he enjoys hunting birds, with guinea fowl his preferred prey.
To date, shooting has provided SA with just one Olympic medal, a silver by a five-man team in the military rifle prone competition at 600m.
That was 92 years ago at the 1920 Antwerp Games, the venue of SA's most successful Olympic team, which won 10 medals, three of them gold.