One target transformed competitive shooter Ash Hawker from reserve team member to men’s world champion.

The clay target shooter, from Kaniva in western Victoria, left the range in the final round of the FITASC Universal World Trench Championships in Umbriaverde, Italy with an impressive final score of 197 out of 200 .

Defending Spanish world champion Mario Fuentes took his turn in the final round, reaching 196, with one goal to go.

If he shot straight, the pair would be tied at 197 apiece, leading to a decisive shot.

Fuentes took aim – and missed.

“There’s nothing better when you wear green and gold and you can make a dream come true,” Hawker said.

Unable to watch the contest unfold in person, Hawker had followed it live on an app and said it took him a few moments to realize he had won.

“I closed the app thinking, ‘Well, it’s probably time to get ready for a shot and focus a bit,’ and within about 30 seconds I got calls phone calls saying I was world champion and he actually missed his last target,” Hawker said.

“I could have gone down there and watched it… but I didn’t really want to go down there and sit there and watch in case I had to prepare for a shootout.

“I thought, ‘I’d better rest, stay cool and hydrate in case it comes down to this.’

“There were a lot of Aussies there…it felt like a stampede about a minute after I found out when these guys had come up to my room.”

Ash Hawker hopes his success will help raise the profile of sport shooting.(Provided: Ash Hawker )

FITASC — Fédération Internationale de Tir aux Armes Sportives de Chasse — is an international organization that represents sport shooting.

From first reserve to world champion

What made Hawker’s victory even more incredible was that he was not initially included in the Australian squad.

“I was the first reservist. I probably didn’t have the best nationals [competition] when I went to Melbourne to shoot it,” he said.

“I had a bit of a poor performance, but I would come out of a big national championship,” he said.

“Then one of my friends, he had planned a big holiday. He was going to be absent at the time of the world championships in Italy, so he withdrew. I took his place.”

A man wearing goggles and earmuffs looks to the right at the sight of a shotgun.
Proper gun fit is crucial for accurate shooting, says Ash Hawker.(Provided: Ash Hawker)

Universal Trench, also known as Five Trap, is an international shooting discipline that involves throwing targets from five traps into a trench in front of the pits.

The targets are thrown at different angles and speeds, which Hawker says makes the sport more difficult.

“You can’t rely on any rhythm or timing when you’re shooting, so it’s great fun, but it can be a little tricky on some days,” he said.

Growing up in Kaniva and now living in Horsham, Hawker’s nearest trench shooting course was three hours from Melbourne.

Although there were regional shoots, it was a long journey to train and compete.

He said it was the enjoyment of the sport and the camaraderie that drew him to Universal Trench.

“You meet absolute people through sports,” Hawker said.

“There are guys who have been in the Olympics, but they’re so humble and they’re just another normal person at the end of the day.”

A group of people in sportswear present their medals while standing on stage with trees behind.
Two Australians also won the junior world championship and the runners-up title.(Provided: Ash Hawker )

Even Fuentes was valiant in defeat.

“He came up to me and congratulated me,” Hawkes said.

“The fact that he just missed his last target, that was pretty important to him.”

Stick to their guns

Several Australian juniors have also won medals at the FITASC championships, with Gabe Sensi winning the world junior title and Acacio Mota second.

Hawker said that success was good for the sport.

“I think for a small country that is shooting, I would say we did pretty well compared to some European countries,” he said.

“We had good success and good shooters in Australia for a long time, but probably not the depth of some of these European countries.”

And he added that the news was particularly well received in Kaniva.

“I’ve had a lot of messages over the past few days from buddies back home,” Hawker said.

“Everyone was very careful, I think, once they knew what position I was in on the last day.”