Michael Diamond, left, takes aim at the Upper Hunter Gun Club at Scone last weekend.THE road to Rio is paved with gruelling qualifying rounds, and for dual Olympic men’s trap-shooting champion Michael Diamond, it is no different.
Nanjing Night Net

That is part of the reason the Fingal Bay shooter travelled to Scone last weekend to take part in a competition hosted by the Upper Hunter Gun Club.

Looking out from the ridge line east of the town, where the clay-target shooters from Cassilis, Mudgee, Murrurundi, Scone, Muswellbrook and Tamworth competed with others from the Lower Hunter and Central Coast, the view was breathtaking.

Here, the man ranked sixth in the world in the trap, the long-range event for the shotgun, was able to kick back with a small group, spend a few days in the caravan and sit by the campfire at night after nearly 12 months of international competition.

Diamond said heading to the bush helped him recalibrate.

– MICHAEL DIAMOND

‘‘Shooting clay targets is my passion, and I love it, but here it’s different because there’s nothing up for grabs and there’s no strain and I really like it,’’ he said.

‘‘Having said that, the wind is really testing today, very challenging, and if you don’t get that target in the first four metres, it will lose velocity and the wind plays havoc with it.’’

The concentration, discipline and accuracy required to consistently shatter an 11centimetre orange disc in mid-air accelerating at 110km/h at different angles from an underground bunker is bewildering.

Diamond has turned it into an artform. He has won Olympic gold medals at Atlanta and Sydney, countless Commonwealth gold and half a dozen world titles.

He has represented Australia at six Olympic Games. Although he did not win a medal at the London Olympics, he shot a world record-equalling 125 from 125 targets in the qualifying round.

The 43-year-old is vying to win selection to his seventh Olympics next year in Rio and, if his silver medal at the recent World Cup in Acapulco is anything to go by, he is right on target.

In Acapulco, Diamond secured one of the two quota places for the Australian men’s trap team during the qualifying period for Rio.

‘‘We can only take two people per shooting discipline, so it’s now up to my teammates to win the other quota spot.

‘‘We have one more chance at the Oceania Games coming up in November where Australia will face off against the Kiwis, the Fijians and a number of other Commonwealth countries.

The ‘‘other half’’ of the Diamond success story is his MX8 Perazzi, a competition clay gun.

‘‘I call her Betsy, and she’s 20 years old, and back then it was the latest technology, but she is still a remarkable Italian-made machine.

‘‘However, after two decades I will be moving on to a high-tech revolution Perazzi, because everyone around the world is now using that style of gun.

‘‘Betsy is my old faithful, but I will retire her for 2016 and start using the high-tech Perazzi, which is worth about €15,000 [$23,000],’’ he said.

Back at the humble tin shed of the Upper Hunter Gun Club in Scone, president Ron Wakem said he was chuffed to see Diamond drive up the gravel road to the clubhouse last weekend.

‘‘Michael Diamond has been a great representative for Australia and he currently holds the world record of 2049 clay targets before he missed a shot and, let me tell you, that takes concentration,’’ Wakem said. ‘‘It’s great for the sport and it’s great to see an Olympian share his skills with our local competition shooters.’’

What advice would Diamond give them? ‘‘Well, anybody can hit a clay target, but you’ve got to do it all the time, and that’s where the psychology is. It’s up here,’’ Diamond said, pointing to his head. ‘‘This is where you win.’’