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This article was published 27/6/2019 (203 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Curtis Wennberg is the comeback kid… well, adult now.
After stepping away from elite competitive trap shooting for a bit — a couple of decades, really — the 1991 Pan Am Games gold medallist is back in action. This July, Wennberg is representing Canada in Lima, Peru for the 2019 Pan Am Games.
"When a lot of people think about trap shooting, or shooting in general, they think it’s about steadiness and holding the gun really still. But really, this is a target that flies out and goes 70 metres within a couple seconds. We see the target and then have to shoot it all within a second. It’s quite a rapid sport, when you look at it that way."
This will be the third time Wennberg has competed in the Games. After two international competitions in the early '90s, the born-and-raised Winnipegger told himself he was done with competitive shooting. He went on to raise two daughters and work as a financial services executive in England, Australia and elsewhere in Canada.
But in 2015, something changed for him.
"As the girls got older I was becoming a ‘less cool’ dad. They didn’t want to spend all the time with me, I suppose, so I thought it’s either golf or shooting again," he said.
"I was on the golf course and thought, ‘This is about as good as I’ll get. Plus, there’s nobody cheering for me.’ Golfing was fun but not that (much) fun. I knew the Pan Am Games were coming up though, so I thought just to see, I wondered if I could still do it. Then maybe I could do it and show my girls that I am kind of cool."
While Wennberg hopes to make the podium this year, that wasn’t his ultimate goal when he came out of his self-imposed sport retirement in 2015.
"I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get back out there and do something I put my mind to," he said.
And prove it to himself he did. Wennberg placed fourth in Toronto’s 2015 Games. Because the Games were in Canada, he said many family members and friends were able to be there to support him. That’s a big change from tournaments held internationally, where it becomes more difficult for people to invest the time and money for travel.
"Sports is a journey, and it’s not just about winning and losing; you realize that at the age of 48." – Curtis Wennberg
The 2015 Games will always hold a special place in his heart, for that reason.
"Shooting off for bronze was super-cool. Very nerve-racking and quite something, but it’s a highlight of my shooting career. Some people say fourth place is the worst spot to finish, but for me it’s one of the terrific achievements in my life," he said.
While this will be Wennberg’s third Pan Am Games, he has yet to make it to the Olympics, the biggest international stage.
July’s Games are critical for Wennberg and the rest of Canada’s national shooting team. In the Olympics, athletes have to earn "quota spots" for their country. This year’s Pan Am competition is one of the last opportunities to earn spots for Tokyo 2020.
Wennberg will earn a men’s trap shooting quota spot for Canada if he finishes in the top two in Lima. The Olympic spot wouldn’t be designated to him though — he’d have to compete for it against other Canadians down the road.
"It would be a real nice capper to my career to represent Manitoba and head to the Olympics if I could," he said.
Competitors in international events shoot four rounds of 125 flying clay targets. The shooter's three best rounds are recorded. To prep for competition, Wennberg heads to the Winnipeg Trap and Skeet Club four times a week and shoots about 300 targets.
"It’s more of an honour to be there and to be selected to go down to the Pan Ams. I don’t take any of this for granted any more at my age. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true." – Curtis Wennberg
As someone who worked as an executive for most of his adult life, Wennberg said getting back into sport was the best thing he could've done for himself. At 48, he said he has about seven or eight years left before he'll most likely age out of competitive shooting.
"Sports is a journey, and it’s not just about winning and losing; you realize that at the age of 48," he said.
"It’s more of an honour to be there and to be selected to go down to the Pan Ams. I don’t take any of this for granted any more at my age. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true."