In her young life, Dania Vizzi has gone from ballet to skeet. And that is maybe not as extreme a transition as it may at first sound.Dania, who calls Florida home, was on her way to studying with the renowned Julliard dance school and becoming a professional ballerina when, at 16, she was handed a .410 by her father and started breaking birds on the trap field. Then came skeet, and it was love at first sight.
Six-and-a-half years later, Dania has been taking junior, national, and world championships in international skeet, which is the Olympic style of American skeet, which includes “reverse” doubles. In 2017, the International Shooting Sport Federation World Championship and the USA Shooting National Championship were the titles that fell to her, the first time they were both held by the same woman in the same year.
While working toward a degree in marketing, Dania has worked toward her medals by managing up to 300 days of skeet practice per year, shooting as many as 40,000 Winchester AA shells in 12 months. All to imprint the muscle memory of correct shooting in her mind. Shooting for Dania is instinctual, with all the practice meant to take thought away when she is standing at the line and about to call for a bird. She has rituals, without superstitions. The week before a competition, she believes in staying hydrated; plenty of water is known to be beneficial to muscle cells. She also works with visual cues. “I always look down,” she says, “to check that my gun is in the right spot before I breathe and call pull. These few seconds help me calm down in a match.”
For Vizzi, the key to championship shooting is, in her words, “Keeping everything the same on every shot. Also, training with as much intensity as a match.” And Vizzi has learned not to let a miss rattle her. “Don’t overthink and change things just because you miss one target,” she says. “Sometimes it just happens.” Nowadays, Vizzi has fewer things to overthink. For her and the competitors she shoots against, unbroken birds are almost as unseen as dodos.
“I’ve gone from shooting with people my age and caliber to shooting with Olympians, she says. “To shoot with people who never miss is so different.” And, it goes without saying, challenging. Yet it is a challenge Vizzi is up to.
Becoming an Olympic shooter is one of Vizzi’s goals, and she finds she is in the right place for achieving it as she shoots against other American champions. “The US has some of the best shooters in the world,” she says. “Being able to compete with them four times a year, within the US, has already started preparing me for the world shoots.” Essential to Vizzi’s training and competition are the Winchester AA shells she shoots. “They are so clean and consistent!” she raves. She likes the fact that all Winchester “products are top quality,” and says, “Winchester has truly mastered greatness.”
From mastering dance to mastering shooting, the leap for Dania Vizzi may not have been that great. Both depend on muscle memory and a rhythmic repetition of movement. If you think about it, skeet is maybe as close to dancing as a shooter with a shotgun can get. Vizzi’s shooting prowess can make you forget that she is still a young woman crazy about spaghetti and pizza, and who loves to cook and to shop for shoes, ones with red soles! For her, a very long time of dancing with clay targets, and collecting medals, lies ahead.
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