This month we go In the Hoop with 2009 World FITASC Champion Damien Birgan. Australian native Birgan won the event by one target over perennial front runner George Digweed. He did it in front of his home crowd too, which surely made the win all the more sweet. Damien is also an avid diver and fisherman who was hard to chase down for this Q&A being that it’s summer in Australia, so we thank him for taking the time to answer our questions.
International Sporting Clays: Congratulations on the win, it must have been unbelievable to win on your home grounds and Digweed was as strong as ever and you still got him, how does that feel?
Damien Birgan: George being the most successful sporting clays shooter in the World, it was a privilege to just keep up with him for four days let alone come home with it. It was a pretty amazing feeling when the last bird broke. To win a World Fitasc in any country is an achievement, however winning it at home made it all the more special.
ISC: For those that don’t know you, tell us about yourself. I read that your sister also shoots…
DB: Well I’m 31 years old and I operate an excavator for a living. I followed my Dad around to shoots and when I was strong enough to hold a gun I started shooting and the rest is history. Shooting is a bit of a family affair. Dad bought Mum a Winchester Water Fowl for a wedding anniversary present, so Mum started shooting and my sister had no choice. It was either start shooting or get left behind!
ISC: I read that you have competed in every world champs since, I believe ’94, that’s a lot of dedication and experience. How did that help you in this years comp?
DB: Yeah, myself and many others from Oz have done a lot of travel over the years and Australia being so far away from anything makes just getting to the World Fitasc a massive hurdle before you even arrive to the shoot! I think having not have travelled 27-30 hours to Europe made it a bit easier to shoot well. I have made top 10 top 20 plenty of times but never been in the position to win so I was going into uncharted territory.
ISC: How were the targets at the event? Anything stand out in your mind as being particularly difficult or unusual?
DB: I thought that the targets were world class and the Warnambool club did a fantastic job with the terrain and the trajectories. Every year the targets are different no matter which country you shoot in and I have enjoyed every World Fitasc I have attended. I thought that all the parcours had pretty much the same degree of difficulty. Although no particular target comes to mind, if I had to choose a whole layout I would say Winchester was slightly more challenging in my view.
ISC: How did you like the format of 5 targets over 5 pegs on a parcour? Was it even more difficult because you hardly saw the same one twice?
DB: I found the 5 targets over 5 pegs enjoyable but not more difficult, but whether 4 pegs or 5 it’s all good fun.
ISC: Tell us about your gun and ammo choices…
DB: I have used a Beretta DT10 for the last 6 years and have been very happy with it. I’ve found it to be very reliable. I shoot Winchester AA Super Sporting No 8 with the odd 7.5 put in for good measure. But anything that makes a noise will do!
ISC: What style of shooting do you use? Move mount shoot, pull-away, etc…
DB: I use all styles of shooting and apply different methods depending on the style, speed, angle and distance of the target. I feel that all techniques of shooting need to be applied when shooting a round of 25 as all targets are different and no parcour is the same.
ISC: Did you undertake any special training regimen leading up to the event?
DB: No nothing in particular, maybe a little skeet and trap shooting, but my main focus was building my body’s immunity to handling copious amounts of alcohol on the nights during the competition…..But seriously, no animals were harmed during my training regime!
ISC: I’ve heard that sporting in Australia is more similar to FITASC than English sporting, Australian rules sporting if you will. Is that the case?
DB: Yes our format is usually three singles and one pair on each peg. This is pretty much the norm here. However we do still shoot old style Fitasc events throughout the year.
ISC: Does Peter Garrett have what it takes to be PM or should he quit and tour with Midnight Oil again?
DB: In my view Peter Garrett should retire from all professions, get a haircut, acquire dancing skills and apply for a real job, like a judge on American Idol!
Photo courtesy: Katrina Sezun and Mark Cain