Paths to Paris: Doreen Vennekamp, ISSF Female Athlete of the Year, reflects on Reitz and her Olympic dreams

In 2023 Germany’s 25m pistol shooter equalled the world record of 40 as she won a first world title at the age of 28. She also earned European Games bronze and World Cup Final silver before being voted as ISSF Female Athlete of the Year. Vennekamp won gold at the opening World Cup of the Olympic season in Cairo.

 What a year! Why did it all come together for you in 2023?

Yes, it was an incredible year.

The year 2022 gave me a lot of experience. I got used to shoot finals and was happy to win some medals, including the European title. So I had a good mindset for the year 2023. That self-confidence paid off during the whole season.

How do you feel about getting the award – the first to be given out since 2017?

I am overwhelmed. I didn't know that the awarding would be held again after many years of no nominations for this title. I always loved the idea of celebrating an  outstanding year of an athlete or representing the spirit of sportsmanship.

I still cannot believe, that I was chosen from so many amazing athletes with incredible seasons.

What started you in shooting and what is most satisfying about it?

My hometown shooting club started a fun competition. Everybody in the town could come along and try shooting. You could also win some prizes. One day I joined in and I have never left shooting since.

I think the most satisfying thing in shooting is to deal with your mind. You have to deal with you thoughts and you own faults. Again and again.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in your career?

After the 2023 World Cup in Bhopal my weapon case was missing. For almost three weeks I didn't know where they were or if I would get them back.

To think about starting all over again after losing such an important part of my career was hard.

With a lot of help I finally got them back. Thanks again to all the people who supported me in that time and special thanks to Saif bin Futais for the incredible help.

Saif is a skeet shooter. He did so much towards searching and getting my guns back. Even if we did not know each other before! Because only a shooter can imagine how it feels to lose your equipment…

 What are your hopes for Paris 2024 and plans for this season? Veronika Major, Feng Sixuan and Zhao Nan look like strong rivals…

In Tokyo I achieved seventh place. I look forward to being better this time.  A dream would come true with an Olympic medal.

For sure, they are strong rivals. Like many others. But they all are very fair and kind athletes. I love to compete with and against them and see who will be the best at that special day.

You recounted how Ukraine’s Olena Kostevych, the Athens 2004 10m air pistol champion, offered you advice and support at the European Games. Is this supportive aspect a familiar part of shooting culture?

Yes, Olena and Antoaneta Kostadinova supported me after the European Games.

It is definitely a familiar feeling to shoot with this girls. They were idols for success and fairness and became shooting friends.

I think this is a big part of the shooting sport.

We respect, we support and we put across fair play.

As you could see from the way Saif helped me after the Bhopal World Cup.

 Who or what was your Olympic inspiration?

I think it was Christian Reitz. We trained together, and he fixed my weapons when I didn't know how successful he was.

One day a girl came to me and told me ‘he already has an Olympic medal. You know that right? He is famous!’

And he just enjoyed that I didn't know before!

Later we became friends and I watched the Rio 2016 Olympic final with some team-mates. We cheered and saw him becoming an Olympic championh. That day the dream was born in me to become an Olympic athlete…

What was your reaction to the Republic of Korea’s Yang Jiin breaking the world record of 40 you shared with Veronika Major when she won the Asian title last month?

I am kind of sad about losing my world record but I think the final record is not unbreakable. We have so many good shooters at the moment. In a high quality final we are all able to outgrow ourselves. Just like Yang Jiin did in that amazing final.

I did not talk about it with Veronika in Cairo, but I am sure she is one of the girls who can break the new record.

How did it feel to start 2024 on a winning World Cup note?

I am really happy to continue in this way in the new year – it feels amazing. But there is still a long way to go towards the best performance.

At the beginning of the year we all have our little struggles. And I don’t think it’s about making mistakes at the moment, but about how often you make mistakes.

We have so many really good athletes here, and everybody will make some mistakes at the first World Cup but they won’t be often and they won’t be big!

So you need to close your doors as close as you can and try to focus all the time and accept your little mistakes and don’t do them that often.

Maybe I just got a little bit luckier than the others. It was really great start for the year.



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