Timing is everything and with just over 200 days to go until Rio, Sweden’s reigning world champion and Paralympic debutant Joackim Norberg has bounced back from a shoulder injury at just the right time.
Norberg collected three bronze medals at the recent IPC Shooting World Cup in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, sending a message that his country’s best pistol shooter is back.
“I have quite high expectations on myself. At the moment I have a lot of positive momentum both in training and competition, which feels great,” Norberg said. “Three bronze medals is of course really great. The injury feels good and I’m really enjoying shooting again. That gives me a lot of inspiration and energy to continue putting in the hours and effort in training that is necessary to continue developing my shooting skills” said Norberg.
Known as “the hot shot”, Norberg certainly lived up to his name by claiming P3 (mixed 25m air pistol) and P5 (mixed 10m air pistol) titles at the 2014 World Championships in Suhl, Germany.
On top of winning two gold medals, he also earned himself one of the many coveted quota places for Sweden at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The Swedish national team will send their largest ever group of shooters to a Paralympic Games consisting of seven athletes with a mix of experience and expectations.
“My goal is to reach a top three position, but this is my first Paralympics so who knows how I will be able to handle pressure and media etc,” Norberg said. “The expectations on the rest of the team are all different because half the team have Paralympic experience and the others are new to the Paralympic scene. As a team we did really well at the World Championships and I think we can achieve some good results in Rio.”
Although he made a impressive return to international shooting at Al Ain, Norberg knows that he still has his work cut out for him if he is to contest for a Paralympic medal. Rio will feature one of the most competitive field of shooters in the history of the Games with 150 athletes from over 40 countries all gunning for glory.
“My shoulder injury at the end of 2014 had a very negative impact on both my ability to practice and to perform at the competitions in 2015,” Norberg reflected. “Al Ain was the first competition in a long time where the injury didn’t affect me and I felt confident in my performance again. So, if I get to prepare myself the way I have planned this year, without disturbance from the injury, I can on a good day perform well also in Rio.”
Being the Paralympic year, the next few months will be the busiest and most intense period for athletes around the world to as they prepare to take to the global sporting stage.
Preparations will go into overdrive, particularly for Norberg as he continues to make his mark on the range after being sidelined for over twelve months.
“I have reduced my working hours to be able to dedicate more time to training and competition. My next competition will probably be in April, an ISSF [International Shooting Sport Federation] World Cup in Rio. Then there is ISCH [International Shooting Competition Hanover] in Hanover in May, and Swedish Championship in July. We will also have a couple of shorter training camps with the team” he said.
The IPC Shooting World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, will take place from 15-18 March followed by Szczecin, Poland from 1-4 May.