Supporting Canadian Athletes

Asmir Arifovic

Up and coming shooter Asmir Arifovic is ranked among the top three air rifle athletes in Canada and is looking forward to the opportunity of competing in his first multi-sport Games at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.

Asmir was born and raised in Bosnia-Herzegovina until 1992, when his family moved to the Czech Republic. He started shooting at an early age after his father gave him a broken down Crvena Zastava air rifle. He enjoyed shooting as a recreational pass time and it wasn’t until much later that he pursued the sport competitively. In 1993, his family made the decision to settle in Canada moving to Toronto, then Kingston and finally Ottawa. “I made a short side track to archery when I moved to Ottawa, and while looking for an archery club I found a gun club – I joined right away and that is when my competitive journey began”, says Asmir.

Training began shortly after, shooting once a week, then twice a week and after a while he was entering the competitive circuit. Asmir doesn’t remember how he placed at his first competition but it was well enough to encourage him to continue. “Early on in my career, I was lucky to meet a coach at the RA Centre in Ottawa who offered to give me a few pointers. Eventually he became my coach, and my career began to take off”, he says. As his skills continued to improve Asmir joined the national team in 2004. “My scores became better and better and I began to realize that this sport is what I love to do and I decided then to go as far as possible with it. I wanted to see what I could achieve if I poured myself into it”, he says. What started as a hobby became a lifelong passion.

Asmir receives a great deal of support and encouragement from the gun club at the RA centre where he trains. They are always very receptive of new shooters and encourage Asmir to continue competing and pursuing his dreams. They also helped him navigate through the firearm restrictions and made sure the equipment was available for him to use. “They really enabled me to participate”, he says.

Asmir entered onto the national scene in 2006, after finishing second at the Ontario Provincial Championships. He came 7th at the Canadian Championships, and went on to place in the top three at the Canadian National Smallbore Championships in 2007 and 2008. Asmir has also competed internationally on the World Cup circuit. His next challenge is the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and although he is still waiting to hear if he makes the team Asmir is optimistic and very excited for the chance to participate in these Games.

Asmir describes his introduction to AthletesCAN as a harmonious one, not a definitive moment in time. He began receiving news bulletins and newsletters from AthletesCAN when he made the senior national team but admits not knowing the difference between Sport Canada and AthletesCAN at first. “Now I realize they are completely different”, he says. Asmir now knows the difference between the government sport branch and the association of Canada’s national team athletes and is fully utilizing the programs and services available to him as a high performance athlete.

Asmir became a member of the Board of Directors for the Shooting Federation of Canada in 2003, a position which ensures that the athlete voice is heard, not just as a token seat but as a strong presence at the decision making table within the national sport governing body. In 2004 he took on the role of Vice President for Recreational and Domestic Shooting, where he is responsible for new program growth and the management of sport and athlete development, camps, and competitions. “We decided we needed more than just the athlete representative position. Although they are more in touch with the athlete issues in terms of disputes and disseminating information to the Board, when it comes to decision-making we wanted to have more of a presence on the Board. I provide the athlete voice at this level”, he explains. In 2005 he became the Vice President of Administration which includes governing the Shooting Federation and making sure it functions as a healthy organization.

As the AthletesCAN Forum is usually held at the same time as the Shooting Federation of Canada’s AGM, Asmir has not had the opportunity to attend the event, but has always made sure that there has been a shooting athlete there to represent the sport. “Although I have not been able to attend the Forum, I have heard that it is an excellent place to make contacts with other athletes and share experiences and information”, he says.

In addition to his leadership role off the field of play, Asmir chairs the junior division at the RA Centre Gun club in Ottawa and enjoys coaching the younger athletes. He believes that as athlete leaders and role models you can have the most impact on kids when they are just starting out. He has also spent time coaching an army cadet’s unit. “Getting involved at the grassroots level helps to bridge the gap between cadets and the Olympics”, he says. Outside of coaching, Asmir enjoys running one on one introductions to the sport to show people how it can be practiced safely and to help remove the stigma associated with firearms.

Asmir completed his degree in Mathematics Engineering at Queen’s University and is currently working for Ericsson Canada as a software designer. He admits that it takes a bit of compromising to balance his training, work and his athlete leadership responsibilities. His schedule consists of training in the morning, going to work, working out at lunch, continuing his administrative duties with the Federation after work, and then more training. The weekends however are exclusively for training. “It’s basically a juggling act. I just make sure that I communicate well with my manager at work so that they are aware of my training and competition needs. They are very supportive and enable me to have a flexible work schedule so that I can organize my work around my sport – it has been a big help”, he says. He finds that as a high performance athlete in Canada with limited funding, it is important for him to be able to work to support himself.

This past April, Asmir was invited to participate in the Queen’s Baton Relay in Ottawa on Parliament Hill in celebration of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. With each Games, the tradition of the relay grows in scale and significance – visiting more nations, involving more participants and generating more excitement than ever before.

As part of Asmir’s own journey to the Games, he recently competed in the National Championships, placing 8th in air rifle and is now waiting to hear who will be selected to attend the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He has been preparing for the Games by timing his peak performance for October rather than the end of the summer. Should he be selected to compete at the Games, Asmir’s goals are to achieve a personal best, and for the team to win a medal and stand on the podium.

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