Road To The Olympic Games

Giuseppe Di Salvatore: young and ready

Giuseppe Di Salvatore, Canada's best male trap shooter, is a teenager excelling in a sport where athletes generally peak in their 30s.

Teenage Olympian is Canada's best male trap shooter

Giuseppe Di Salvatore takes aim at the world championships. ((Photo courtesy of JP Huot))

Giuseppe Di Salvatore was seven years old when his dad convinced him to shoot a gun for the first time. He had tagged along on a trip to the Vancouver Gun Club and found himself scared, gun in hand, uncertainly taking aim.

A long line of Di Salvatore hunters and shooters came before him, including his great grandfather, his grandfather, and his dad Tony. It is family tradition. 

"I was really nervous, and it took some convincing to get me up to the shooting line, but I finally agreed to do it," Di Salvatore says. "My dad had to stand behind me to help me pull the trigger. After that I was saying, ‘I was complaining because of this? That’s it? Let me shoot more.’"

By age nine he was shooting regularly, and at 16 Di Salvatore became the youngest Canadian champion ever.

Now 18, he’s Canada’s top male trap shooter. Di Salvatore is a teenager competing in a sport where athletes typically peak in their 30s. He’ll likely be the youngest shooter at the Beijing Olympic Games.

"The best years for shooters," says his coach and former Olympian, Josh Lakatos, "are the late, late 20s to early 40s."

"That’s when you’re able to calm yourself down mentally," Di Salvatore says, "That’s what they say, at least." 

A mind game

Trap shooters aim at 125 clay pigeons that zip around at upwards of 100 mph, making focus an integral part of the sport. Di Salvatore says it’s 90 per cent mental.

"It’s basically a mind game, knowing you’re on the line and you have to hit this target that’s going 100 miles and hour. It’s lots and lots of pressure."

Especially when an Olympic berth is on the line, which is the position he found himself in at the 2007 Pan American Games. The 2006 national champion stepped up to win the bronze medal, in the process earning a quota spot for Canada at the Beijing Olympics.

Having now accumulated the most points at international tournaments of any male trap shooter in the country, Di Salvatore has earned his way on the Olympic team.

The key, he says, is focus and concentration.

"In pressure situations, I just try to take my mind off everything. My strategy when I’m out there is to take it one target at a time, and if I miss one, don’t worry about it, there’s another 124 to go."

That poise is what most impresses his coach.

‘Amazing to watch’

"When he is focused and driven, he is amazing to watch," says Lakatos. "This is a huge advantage at his age."

Though Di Salvatore makes little of his age compared to that of his competitors, it’s hard to ignore. When he accepted his bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games, he was standing on the podium with two guys in their 40s. Di Salvatore was 17.

"I guess it was kind of weird being the youngest at first, but I got used to it," he says. "The other shooters are all really good that way with me. They help me, they give me a lot of tips. They want to see the youngsters succeed, and they want to see the sport survive."

With his peak years as a shooter still ahead of him, Di Salvatore says he has a shot at a medal in Beijing, but he’s approaching his first Olympic experience with no expectations.

"I’m going to go out there and I’ll give it all I can, but I also want to have fun," he says. "Just being able to compete with the best in the world is an amazing experience. I’m going to enjoy it."    

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