BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – Practice makes perfect.
The old maxim applies to the world’s top competitive shooters, who practice and push themselves to the limit of psychological exhaustion daily.
The Brazilian Army has helped Lt. Col. Julio Almeida, 41, become one of the sport’s best.
At the base where he is stationed, Almeida fires between 3,000 and 4,000 rounds a week and receives the support he needs to participate in the most important national and international competitions, in addition to military tournaments.
Stênio Yamamoto, a 49 year-old dentist, is the highest-ranked civilian Brazilian competitive shooter. But Yamamoto’s practice schedule is much different from Almeida’s.
In São Paulo, Yamamoto divides his time between his target practice and his dental practice, meaning he sometimes has to miss national and international tournaments.
“I train about 10% less than a soldier,” he says. “They compete more and train more. I can’t commit on a full-time basis. I have to maintain my dental practice, so I can’t enter into all of the international tournaments.”
In 2011, Yamamoto will compete in three tournaments, which could lead to a spot at the 2012 Olympic Games, in London. Yamamoto will participate in two rounds of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in the United States, in May, and Germany, in June. He also is expecting to compete in the 2011 Pan American Games, in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October.
But Almeida’s calendar is filled with more competitions.
He already competed in the first stage of the ISSF World Cup, in Australia in March, placing 14th in the 50-meter pistol competition and 26th in the air pistol competition. From April 9-15, he competed in the South Korean round of the competition, placing 24th in air pistol and 47th in the 50-meter pistol.
Almeida expects to compete at the ISSF World Cup rounds held in the United States and Germany. From July 16-24, he will compete in the 2011 Military World Games, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro. In October, he expects to pull the trigger at the Pan American Games.
The training support that the Brazilian Armed Forces provides has enabled Almeida to reach the top of the Brazilian Confederation of Sport Shooting in four areas: air pistol, 25-meter pistol, 50-meter pistol, standard pistol and center fire pistol.
Military Games are a priority
Almeida’s goals for 2011 include winning gold at the Pan American Games, which would earn him a spot on Brazil’s Olympic squad in 2012.
But he’s always working toward performing well at the 2011 Military World Games.
“During the first half of the year, my focus will be on qualifying for the Olympics,” he says. “That said, when the Germany round of the World Cup is over, I’m going to prioritize the Military World Games. So there will be a month where I put the Olympic trials on a back burner and focus all of my attention on the Military World Games.”
In December, Almeida proved that Brazil can count on him for medals.
Almeida won three medals – one gold and two silver – at the 45th World Military Shooting Championship.
He also helped Brazil achieve its best overall finish at the event, as the squad won four medals en route to placing sixth. China won the event, followed by Germany, Norway, Poland and Austria.
Almeiro teamed with Maj. Iengo Batista and Maj. Emerson Duarte to win the gold medal in the 25-meter team speed shooting competition, finishing ahead of a Ukranian team that included Olympic champion Oleksandr Petriv.
With the same teammates, Almeida earned a silver medal in the 25-meter center fire pistol competition. He also took silver in the individual 25-meter center fire pistol event.
The final medal won by the Brazilians was in the 25-meter rapid-fire female team competition, where Maj. Ana Luiza Mello, Lt. Cibele Martins and Sargent Roberta Boldrini Mota took bronze.
“Brazil had only won three medals in its entire history. We brought home another three, so we doubled the number,” Almeiro says. “At the Military World Games, which is at the same level as the civilian world games, I won six medals. It’s practically the same athletes participating in these competitions, so it means a lot as well.”
Shooting: An Olympic event
There are not many competitive shooting athletes in Brazil. The sport is mainly practiced in military circles.
But the sport holds an important place in the country’s athletic history. Brazil won its first Olympic medals in the sport.
Brazilians Guilherme Paraense, Afrânio Antonio da Costa, Sebastião Wolf, Dario Barbosa and Fernando Soledade arrived at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp Belgium seeking glory.
But the firearms the Brazilians were going to use were in poor condition and did not fire accurately. Lt. Col. Oliver F. Snyder, the head of the competitive shooting for the American delegation, lent his team’s guns to the Brazilians.
“Mr. Costa, your weapons are worth nothing. I will arrange for you to use the pistols that Colt made especially for us,” said Col. Snyder, according to an entry in Costa’s diary.
The result was golden.
Paraense won gold in the rapid fire pistol competition. Afrânio da Costa took silver in the free pistol competition and the Brazilian squad earned the bronze medal in the rapid-fire team pistol competition.