Growing up in the middle of Germany is a far cry to the relaxed beach lifestyle of the Illawarra.
It took a lot of commitment - and covered more than 16,000 kilometres - but Maria Rebling is now happy to call our region "home".
It's a scenario she never dreamed could become a reality. Why? Because she never had plans to become an Australian citizen.
"After I finished school in Germany, I went to New Zealand for a year. I then went to Australia in 2006 and I've been here ever since," Rebling said.
"I love the ocean here and I love walking on the beach and going for a swim. The people here are different, it's a lot more relaxed. I just settled here."
The people here are different, it's a lot more relaxed. I just settled here.Maria Rebling
Rebling has always been passionate about rifle shooting. And she's quite good at it too.
She was introduced to biathlon during her school years - a sport which combines shooting and skiing. But she was always more intrigued by the shooting aspect.
"I got into the German national team for a year and it was pretty exciting to do international competitions," Rebling said.
"But when I came to Australia, I had a break from shooting because I didn't really know where to go. It's not as popular and famous here as Germany so it took me a few years to get back into it. I was then in contact with someone who happened to have a competition in Sydney. I went up to see them and they got me started with some gear.
"I got my citizenship about eight years ago and I've represented Australia at the Oceania Championship and also been to Europe."
Rebling is now focused on representing Australia at the 2020 Olympic Games.
Her journey towards Tokyo began at last November's Oceania Championship in Sydney, where she competed in the 10-metre air rifle and the 50m three positions (prone, standing and kneeling) events. Rebling's sole aim was to get a Minimum Quota Score in both events, which she achieved. Her next qualification event is the Adelaide Cup at Wingfield Range this weekend.
It will be the first of three qualifiers in 2020, with the following competitions to be held again at Wingfield Range in late February and in Sydney next month.
The Australian Olympic shooting team is expected to be named in March.
In the lead-up, Rebling has been training hard. Her schedule has included regularly attending the German Air Rifle Club, Illawarra while she also drives up each week to the Sydney International Shooting Centre.
"It's a big drive and I'm also working full time so I don't get to go up there too often," Rebling said.
"I usually go to the Illawarra air rifle range once a week and do another session here at home, where I practise the different positions. Especially prone and kneeling.
"I also focus a lot on my fitness because I've had some trouble with my back. I do core lots of gym work and swimming. It helps my balance a lot when I do those sessions."
Rebling said a lot of people underestimated how much physical - and mental - work that rifle shooting involved.
"It's a lot more challenging than it looks to the outsider. It looks like you're just standing there and start shooting," she said.
"But if you ever actually try do it yourself, you notice how hard it is to get into the middle and get the black [target] every time. I'm up to the standard where I get the black every time I shoot. But the top shooters shoot between a 10.5 and a 10.9 [maximum score] every time for 60 shots so they're right in the bullseyes, right in the centre. You need really good balance and a good reaction.
"The thing I find fascinating about it is everyone can shoot a 10.9 [once]. But who can do the perfect shot for 60 shots in a match? It's mentally challenging because you get a little excited when you're doing really well which doesn't help you in shooting. The higher your pulse is, the more movement you have on the rifle. Sometimes it's easy to keep shooting good shots over and over. But sometimes you also get into a spot where you can't get them in the middle and you're trying to figure out what's happening. You adjust the sight but nothing is working. It's a different type of sport, that's for sure, because it's not related to who can move the fastest. It's about who can best turn themselves into a robot, turn off any emotions and just do the same thing over and over again.
"In the 10-metre air rifle, for example, we shoot 60 shots. After that, the eight best competitors go into the final. You get 75 minutes for the 60 shots plus some sighters at the start. But in the final, it's 50 seconds per shot. Your heart rate goes through the roof and you try do the same thing as the competition. But it just doesn't work because your pulse is so high, you can't keep the rifle still. It's challenging but that's what makes it interesting."
It's a lot more challenging than it looks to the outsider. It looks like you're just standing there and start shooting.Maria Rebling
All of that hard work and dedication will pay off if Rebling can make her Olympic dream become a reality in July. So what it mean to compete on the world's biggest stage?
"It's been a total dream since I was a little kid. It would be very exciting to represent Australia, do the village experience and have so many spectators," Rebling said.
"But I'm trying to be relaxed and not think about it too much. There's only one or two people going [in my category] so it's tough. Whoever keeps the coolest will be the one that goes through."
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