MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Having won his duels with Father Time, 54-year-old Warren Potent has little fear of competing with the young guns at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics where the silver-haired Australian will train his sights on gold in the 50 meter rifle prone.
Potent clinched Australia’s first Olympic medal in a rifle shooting event with bronze at the 2008 Games and embellished his ‘late bloomer’ status with a first individual world title in 2014, a trifling 28 years after winning the team crown in 1986.
As he prepares for a fifth Olympic campaign, Potent now sits atop a world rankings dominated by men half his age.
“I’m pinching myself. I’m 54 now and I’m currently ranked number one in the world,” the Sydney marksman told Reuters in an interview.
“I’m still doing really well in competition where a lot of people lean towards it being a younger person’s sport now.
“I am excited. But at the same time not too excited because I know I have a job to do.”
As both an elite shooter and a full-time worker for a global engine manufacturer, Potent generally has his hands full.
He enjoys sponsorship from a gun-maker, but has earned more respect than money from the sport and has only a few minutes to chat during his lunch-break before returning to his post in spare parts distribution.
His company affords him the flexibility to tour, however, and his decades of experience means he has little need to spend countless hours firing away at training.
“When I do train, I don’t go out to the range to fire hundreds and hundreds of shots,” he said.
“I try to shoot as perfect a shot as I can. And I think that’s what keeps me in the game. It’s basically keeping the whole thing simple, literally lining up three circles and pulling the trigger.”
Potent’s event may be the ‘lying down’ category of shooting yet it’s anything but relaxed.
Toting a gun weighing more than 6 kg and trying to remain dead still for 60 shots in a 75-minute match exacts a big mental and physical toll.
Potent regularly does light weights to try to minimize the nagging of tired muscles but has little need to exercise his mind with mental gymnastics.
Being ‘in the zone’ seems to come easily and naturally for Potent who first started sport shooting when a high school teenager and was immediately hooked.
“Right down to the last couple of seconds of aiming, I could not tell you what I’m thinking of. No idea,” he said.
“I think I’m just concentrating on the actual aim, and when the aim’s correct, the finger automatically fires the shots.”
Australia’s oldest confirmed Olympian at Rio, Potent is also on the same team as the youngest in 16-year-old Aislin Jones who has booked her ticket in the women’s skeet.
Jones, her country’s youngest ever Olympic shooter, was born just seven months before Potent’s maiden Games appearance at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Potent will inevitably be tapped for advice by rookies urged to ask questions first and shoot later.
“The best advice is to tell them to try to have as much fun as they can,” said Potent, who dug himself out of a crisis of confidence before and after the London Games in 2012.
“I think I just got into a situation where I was just trying too hard (in 2011-12). You can try too hard in sport instead of just letting it happen.
“When the fun disappears, your performance tends to follow.”
Editing by John O'Brien