A shooting star

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

WITH just under five months to go until the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, the Coffs Coast can already lay claim to having one of their own booked on the plane to the Chinese capital.

Stacy Roiall is a proud Nymboida girl and on the weekend she qualified in the women's trap shooting after edging out Athens Olympic gold medallist Suzanne Balogh by nine shots at the Australia Cup and fourth and final Olympic qualifying event.

"I'm looking forward to that experience of going to the Olympic Games and representing Australia at the highest level," the 30 year-old said.

"It's a dream come true and it's a big opportunity and I'm really looking forward to it."

Roiall now resides in Melbourne but there's no doubting that she still calls the Coffs Coast home.

"I spend a good month near Coffs Harbour over Christmas and I'm usually there several times throughout the year," she said.

"I was hoping to get up there prior to me going away again because I'm off next month to Beijing. At the moment we're just to see if I can maybe squeeze up there for Easter weekend."

Time to sit still and ponder her achievement will be a rarity leading up to the Games as there is plenty of overseas travel in store for Roiall and the shooting team as she prepares for the most important contest of her life.

Next month, she's off to Beijing for a World Cup event where the shooting ace will get a feel for the venue that will be used at the Games.

In May it's off to the United States for a World Cup meet and a similar meet will be held in Serbia during June.

Roiall's diary for the month of July is also taken up with a two week training camp in Darwin before embarking on the plane for Beijing at the start of August.

"Last year I was probably out of the country for three months of the year," Roiall added.

"We do a lot of World Cup events on the international circuit but being an Olympic year, we're flat out now."

With a schedule that busy, a sympathetic and understanding employer is required and luckily for the new Olympian, she's got one.

Working casually at Hotel Ibis in Melbourne, Roiall can't thank her bosses enough for the support they offer her.

"I got the job through the Victorian Institute of Sport and they are really great," she explained.

"They give me the hours when I'm in town and when I'm away they are really supportive."

Still a member of the Coffs Harbour Clay Target Club as she has been for the last five years, the champion shooter makes sure that she never forgets her beginnings in the sport that has now given her so much.

"When I'm up there I do try and get out to the club," Roiall said.

"If not in Coffs Harbour, I try and shoot in Grafton, in which case they all travel to support one another's club.

"That's where my roots come from and I always try and make sure that I put in an appearance."

Roiall has become good friends with gold medallist Russell Mark and he has already offered some advice on what to expect when time for the Games comes around.

In fact the whole shooting community is close knit and Roiall is a touch disappointed that Athens gold medallist Suzanne Balogh won't be joining her in China.

"Suzie and I are friends and it's unfortunate that they can't pick the two of us as we're both very competitive. It would be great if we could but it's very cut throat when it comes to positions."



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