At just 22 years of age, the Mulwala resident and former Corowa High School student will shoot for gold in double trap as will another local, Rutherglen’s Gaye Shale, who have both been selected in a 28-member Australian side.
Willett has a lot riding on this event after explaining that it will be his last shot at winning a medal in double trap as the International Shooting Sport Federation have scrapped the discipline from the Olympic calendar and the Commonwealth Games will go the same way.
“I will have to shoot in the normal Olympic trap event to try and make the Olympic team,” he told the Free Press.
“I will have to extend the lay out at home to train and there are challenges that come with that.
“The discipline I am in now only requires three traps but in the Olympic trap you need 15, and each one of those is worth $5000.”
Training has ramped up with Willett attending a training camp ahead of travelling to the Commonwealth Games on April 1.
Aside from looking forward to competing, Willett is excited to have a home event where his family can all attend for once.
“It will be good having them all there, they don’t normally come and watch me compete, so it will be good,” he said.
“In saying that it also comes with pressure as well, so it’s just about being able to manage that on the day.”
The star shooter has been visiting schools this past week to speak to students and staff about his Commonwealth Games debut and shared his stories of resilience and competing under pressure, goal setting, health and nutrition.
On Tuesday, March 20 he visited Rutherglen High School and spoke with Years 7, 8, 9 and 10.
Willett told the students about his journey to become a gold medallist in double trap shooting.
In 2016 he competed against an American who was twice his age, and went on to claim victory to win the championship gold medal.
A big part of his success comes down to maintaining a healthy diet, exercise and resilience, as well as mental toughness to obtain his goals.
“The last six months have been tough for me,” Willett told the Rutherglen High School students.
“They took the double trap discipline away from the Olympic games, so there are three shot gun events left now.
“This Commonwealth Games will be my last ever shot at double trap. I have got to be tough and work towards what I need to do and work to the goals that I have set.
“It’s like any sport – we all go through tough times, times when we are not performing as well as we would like to be and we just have to work through what’s not working right.
“Resilience is something I have learnt from a young age and I try to manage it as best I can because it’s a big part of everything you do.
“In this sport you have to prepare yourself mentally and expectations can obviously hurt your performance mentally, for the best shot you have to be relaxed so too much expectation can cause tension and that sort of thing that can cause your performance to not be as great.
“Again, you just have to manage it the best way you can.”
Willett also spoke to the students about goal setting.
“My main goal is to win gold at the Olympic Games,” he said.
“We have selection events throughout the year, so we are always working towards them.
“It comes back to goals and training, setting goals each day you train so that you are not just training for the sake of it.”
Willett also spoke about the importance of staying focussed.
“I always work towards moving forward, there are people who say you can’t do stuff but if you work towards it and have the right mindset, you can achieve pretty much anything that you work towards,” he said.
“I have only been in this sport a short time, so it is something I have been able to prove myself, that if you work towards something then you can achieve it.”
Willett started out shooting on a farm between Corowa and Mulwala, learning the skill with his dad out in the paddocks on their property.
Later he became a competitor for his school team and knew he wanted to continue with the sport to compete at the highest level.
Willett works pretty much full-time towards his sport, exercising up to three times a week and training on the range at home most days.
“Exercise and a good diet helps keep me mentally sharp while competing and helps with the pressure,” he said.
Willett also talked about the breathing techniques that are required for his sport and the importance of keeping his heart rate at the optimum level.
“When we are competing our heart rate is about 120 beats per minute, so it is a lot higher than your resting heart rate,” he said.
“When we are training at home, however, our heart rate is really low because we haven’t got that competition pressure on us, so the exercise helps our body cope with the higher heart rate when we do compete.”
To stay up to date with Willett competing at the Commonwealth Games, visit his Facebook page – James Willett Olympic Shooter.