In her father’s footsteps
When her father offered the chance to teach his sport, air pistol shooting, Dorothy Ludwig and her younger sister jumped at the chance.
It was about 20 years ago and the family was living just outside of Edmonton.
Her father, Bill Hare, was retiring from his sport and decided to create a juniors program in Alberta, which his two younger daughters could take part in.
“That was the beginning for the shooting experience,” Ludwig said.
“That was the big thing; we were both looking for something to do.”
A few years later, Ludwig — her married name — attended the Canada Winter Games and got her first taste of where the sport could take her.
Ludwig won the team gold and placed fourth or fifth in the individual competition.
“That was a big experience. I started thinking maybe I had a future in this sport,” she said.
“That is when I started thinking, ‘I can actually do this; I can follow in my dad’s footsteps.’”
And the footsteps were definitely big ones to fill as her father attended three Olympics Games for Canada — 1964, 1968 and 1972 — with a best finish of 15th in the 1968 Games.
“When you start, you don’t really think I can be an Olympian,” Ludwig said.
“You are just doing something for fun.”
But here Ludwig is, ready to follow in her father’s footsteps and represent Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Her father passed away in 2005 at the age of 69.
“I miss him a lot; he was a big inspiration,” Ludwig said.
“He encouraged me and taught me everything I know and always let me choose (what I wanted to do).”
“I think the only person that would be more pleased (with my qualification) than me would have been my dad,” she said.
“Shooting has always been a family sport for us (and to go to London) makes it all the more special.”
Ludwig competes in 10m air pistol shooting, which measures a competitor’s precision shooting. The guns use compressed air and the competitors fire lead bullets either at paper or electronic targets (depending on the competition).
From an early age, Ludwig has shown a knack for the sport.
“My sister (Lynda Kiejko) would say — and my dad would too — that I have a bit of a gift and I don’t have to train as hard as other people do to be at the same level,” Ludwig said.
But the road has not always been easy, especially in an under-the-radar type of sport like air pistol shooting.
“There were definitely times I wanted to give up, but at the same time, I just couldn’t quit, and I am glad I didn’t,” she said.
Funding is one challenge as every year, Ludwig has to apply for grants. Compare that to some other countries, like China, and it is night and day, she said, comparing her sport to being a hobby here compared to a profession.
“(In China), they eat, sleep and breathe their sports,” Ludwig said. “There is a waiting list and as soon as an athlete fails, there is someone else there to take their spot.”
She makes it clear that she is grateful for the support she does receive.
“The grants are helpful — don’t get me wrong — but miniscule,” Ludwig said. “But I appreciate every single grant I have ever gotten.”
Ludwig is also grateful for all the support that local organizations such as PacificSport Fraser Valley provide for her and other local athletes, such as free gym memberships.
She also knows she could not have done any of this without the support of her husband, Cam and their one-year-old son Erden.
“He is really supportive; I don’t think I could have gotten this far without him,” she said about her husband.
“Cam has been helpful and supportive and encouraging.”
There is also the support from her mom, Fran Hare, and her older siblings, John Hare and Lorna Idland.
Her elder siblings never took up the sport as they were born during the height of their father’s competitive career.
Now that she is off maternity leave — Ludwig works as an executive assistant at Power to Change — she juggles her family, work and training. She trains out of the Langley Rod and Gun Club and with her Grande Prairie-based coach, Pat Gustafson.
Ludwig had earned Canada a spot at the London Games thanks to her gold-medal performance at the Pan American Games in Mexico back in October. But she still had to win one more competition to book her ticket to the Olympics.
She did so back in March in Calgary, winning by a mere two points but it was bittersweet as Ludwig edged out Kiejko. The third-place finisher was another Alberta shooter, Lea Wachowich, and all three were coached by Hare.
“We all started at the same time, we were all trained under my father, and we all grew up in the sport together,” Ludwig said.
At the Pan American Games, Ludwig said she entered the competition stress-free and without expectations.
It was her second time at the Games, and she had not trained as much since she was a new mom with a six-month-old.
“I took away a big stress factor for myself and just allowed myself to compete rather than worry what the results were going to be,” she explained.
“I had to be OK with not winning — of course I wanted to win — and just had to shoot.
“So often I have worried and put a lot of pressure on myself and this time I didn’t.”
Ludwig was second heading into the finals, but edged out Venezuela’s Maribel Pineda by a tenth of a point for the gold medal.
“It is terrible way to lose but a beautiful way to win,” Ludwig said.