Hometown calls for Skinner
Published 20 September 2016 (AEDT)
RIO 2016: From a town of population five thousand, Catherine Skinner could be the most famous athlete to ever come from Mansfield, Victoria.
Finally home after a mammoth Olympic campaign, the trap shooter is relishing some time off after being crowned Olympic Champion in Rio and then spending one week travelling the country for Welcome Home parades.
Now based in Melbourne, the 26-year-old has finally had a chance to let the moment sink in and visit her hometown at the foot of Mount Buller.
“I’ve had a few days off in amongst the hectic 4-5 weeks,” Skinner said.
“Taking home gold is still a very foreign concept. I’m still stunned. I thought it was unlikely to ever happen and now it’s just incredible. It really caught me unaware.
“Going home is a great little retreat. I can hide for a bit. My family still live up there so I can take the back roads and just go and hang out there and no one will know.”
Competing in the final alongside Australian teammate Laetisha Scanlan, the photo of the pair hugging after Skinner claimed gold was one of the most endearing images of the Games.
“In that moment I was still processing it. I felt like someone was pulling a big prank.”
Now that she has gold in her hands, there are more opportunities for both her sporting and working career than she could ever fathom.
“I’m exploring my opportunities. Anything I had planned previously has gone out the window. It’s really exciting.”
First on the list is trying to raise participation numbers in the sport, with Skinner planning appearances at various gun clubs.
She’s also been visiting schools, seeing the next generation of Olympians.
“It’s been amazing. Up in Mansfield we had a big civic reception last week. And then I’ve been going to all the schools. The kids are great. I’ve had old teachers come up to me and say to other people ‘See I told you I taught her’.”
Skinner’s had a lot to juggle in the last few years. She finished her bachelor degree in chemical engineering at university last year, at the same time as qualifying for the team.
“It’s all paid off. I’ve had a lot of offers for work experience and jobs now, so I’m exploring that.”
Her voice lights up as she talks about an upcoming holiday, her first time snowboarding since after she missed out on selection for the London 2012 Games.
“There’s a short period every four years where I can go snowboarding. Because of the risk of breaking my wrist, and that’s one thing I need for shooting, I can only go after the Games and before the next competitions. I’m off to Japan with my brother and his friends in February and I really can’t wait.”
While she has no plans for retirement any time soon, Skinner is realistic about her prospects of going back-to-back at Tokyo 2020.
“I’m just seeing how it goes. Four years is a long time and there are some strong shooters coming through here, just qualifying for Australia will be hard. There are some good junior girls coming through.
“I’m really proud of it. It’s really great that we are so competitive on the world stage.
“There’s a lot of raw talent. It’s amazing see how much more depth we have with more athletes.”
But that’s not to say she’s saying goodbye to the sport.
“Shooters can keep on going to 50 or 60 years-old. If can have a career and sport at the same time who knows. I’ll see what becomes a priority in time.”