SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP— A year after learning to shoot a .22 caliber riffle, Sidney Dotson walked in on her dad watching the Biathlon during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“I said. ‘I want to do that,’” the Shawnee Middle School eighth-grader said of the rifle shooting portion of the sport that combines shooting and cross-country skiing.
In a few weeks, she will head to Colorado Springs, Colo., to compete in the air rifle event at the National Junior Olympics.
Sidney’s dad got her interested in shooting by taking her to the Lima Sabres Shooting Association.
“I decided it was really fun,” she said. “I just thought it was a cool experience, and I actually had a talent in it. … My first time shooting, my dad was surprised by how well I did. It was just fun, so I stuck with it.”
Two years later, Sidney began competing through the Ohio Riffle and Pistol Association near Youngstown. Finding success there, she qualified to become part of the Ohio State Junior League, meaning she represents Ohio at national matches.
“You are really competing against yourself, not other people, and I like that,” she said. “It is just fun to meet new people, too.”
Sidney qualified for the Junior Olympics in December by getting 324 points out of 400. She was pretty confident but still a little shocked when news came that she qualified. It was the second time she had tried.
“I was like, ‘wow,’” said Sidney, who recently found herself staring in envy at a box of medals and trophies at a recent competition. “I’m not really nervous, just excited.”
Saying it takes focus, self confidence and believing in herself, Sidney also spends her share of time practicing. During the cold months, she shoots her air rifle from the kitchen to the garage, about 50 feet.
“My goal is to just get better every time,” she said. “I will practice each night until that day I leave.”
Sidney, who will soon be featured in her school newspaper, has her sights set on getting a scholarship to college and one day competing in the Olympics. She also wouldn’t mind going head-to-head against her dad, who is her main coach.
“He says he wants to start competing this summer against me,” she said. “I always tell him I will outshoot him.”