When someone says the word “athlete,” View Royal resident Mark Hynes may not be the image that comes to mind.
He’s average height and of an average build. He doesn’t spend much time in the gym and he’s likely never going to be on a box of cereal or get a signing bonus for inking a lucrative contract.
He can, however, raise and lower a pistol 60 times over the span of an hour or so, and hit a mark the size of dime more often than he misses it – and when he misses, it’s not by much.
He’s one of the best air pistol shooters in the country and he’s headed to the Pan Am Games next month – being held June 10 to 26 in Southern Ontario – to try for a spot in the Olympics.
“Well, if I make the finals, I’ll be happy with that,” he says honestly. It’s not good to set expectations too high, he adds, because on a given day, even the best shooters in the world can either be right on target or a millimetre off.
Hynes is one of those people. He’s a nine-time national champion at various distances and the reigning champ in both the 10- and 50-metre disciplines.
He got his love of shooting from his father, who was a police officer, Hines says, and who dabbled in competitive shooting for a while – before it became more than that.
“He started going to all kinds of more serious competitive events and he got me into it in the 80s,” Hynes recalls. “And then he coached me at the Canada Games and I got a team bronze there,” which told him he was maybe onto something.
Then life got busy and Hynes’ shooting had to take a backseat to other priorities.
He got back into it in 2008, however, and almost immediately became one of the best in the nation.
“I’ve basically been top three every year since 2009,” he says, not in a conceited way, just as a statement of fact.
“I (still) don’t have much time to train. Between work and family and whatnot, it’s basically a hobby I kind of shoehorn in when I can.”
Hynes does most of his training at home, practicing without ammunition on an electronic trainer which simulates real target shooting and gives him remarkably accurate data.
“Then when I actually manage to get to the range,” he says, “I’m using it to basically confirm that what I’ve been doing at home is working.”
His 10m firearm is a single-shot air pistol, and is shot indoors under ideal conditions. There are no outside factors that come into play, such as wind, lighting changes or other distractions – hence the expectation that you’ll be hitting that dime-sized bullseye more often than not.
His 50m pistol is a .22 calibre, single-shot pistol fired on an outdoor range. With wind and changing weather conditions a factor, the bullseye is a bit bigger. It’s 50 millimetres across, or about the width of a Canadian $5 bill.
Despite fielding an excellent squad in their home country, and competing for a large number of medals, Hynes says, Canadian shooters are expecting to get much screen time at the televised international event.
“They don’t show much shooting here,” he says, laughing. “Over in Europe, it’s huge and it’s gaining in popularity in Asia, but here they mainly focus on showing the track events. I guarantee you won’t be seeing me shoot live.”
He did promise, however, that he’d let the Gazette know how he does upon his return.
Who knows? Maybe he’ll have an “on day” where he “finds the zone,” and he’ll manage win the whole thing, earning himself a spot in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he says. “I’m just happy to have been selected to compete for Canada, and I’m doing what I can when I can in preparation, so hopefully I shoot well while I’m there.”