Bourjaily: Some Gold-Medal Shooting Advice

That's me with skeet shooter Chiara Cainero at dinner in Brescia, Italy. She is holding her gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which she won in a three-way shootoff in the rain.

Cainero shoots way better than she speaks English, and I shoot better than I speak Italian (which is not saying much), but we were still able to talk about how she trained to deal with Olympic pressure.

She shoots only 100-300 rounds a day, which is low for an elite shooter. But, she told me she does lots of visualization. Visualization lets you practice without ever picking up a gun. You picture yourself at the range, and imagine setting up for the target, going through your pre-shot routine, calling for the bird, seeing it, and making a good move and crushing it. The more detail you can work into your mental images, the more effective your mental training becomes. Visualization conditions your mind and body to perform, even in the heat of a three way shootoff on your sport's biggest stage.

Visualization is an important training method and top athletes like Carineo take it very seriously. It's much more than merely daydreaming about hearing your national anthem with a medal around your neck.

"When I visualize, I think about shooting in the Olympics. But I don't think about winning," she said. "I think about breaking targets in the Oympics."
Evidently it works.