‘Once an Olympian, always an Olympian’. That was the special message Deserie Baynes pictured received on a card with the athlete’s oath from the Australian Olympic Committee ahead of the Tokyo Olympics before it kicked off last week.
And so, it is true for the bronze medallist, two-times Olympic shooter, and mum of three from Mannanarie, just north of Jamestown.
“It is a pretty unique club,” Deserie told the Plains Producer.
“You always have the deepest respect for anyone who has made the sacrifice and commitment to make it to an Olympic Games.
“They are life choices, it does change your life as much as anything possibly can because of your drive and need to want to be better, and that’s across all disciplines of sport.
“You can never truly explain to anyone what it’s like to be an Olympian, they can never quite take on that emotion.
“It’s one of those things you just have to experience.”
Deserie was 35 when she competed in the first ever female-specific double trap shooting event at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, winning bronze.
She went on to also compete at the Sydney 2000 Olympics (in double trap and trap), and brought home a gold medal from the 2006 Commonwealth Games (in the women’s trap pairs).
“There was only double trap available to women at Atlanta in 96,” Deserie said.
“It was the first time women had a separate shooting event just for women, before that, men and women competed together.”
Double trap presented some challenges for Deserie in Atlanta, but she went on with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude and walked away with a bronze medal.
It is a feeling she will never forget.
“Double trap was a totally different discipline than what we were used to,” Deserie said.
“We were shooting at two targets simultaneously that were flying between three to three and a half metres and slightly off-centre.
“Just when I’d think I had it worked out, I’d lose the plot.
“But I shot a personal best in the final. I had to shoot off with fellow Australian, Annmaree Roberts.
“There were six or seven of us in the last shoot-off for a spot in the final and I was the lucky one to go through.
“Back then the scores were cumulative so I went in in sixth position and I had nothing to lose and gave it everything in the final.
“I finished equal second and had a shoot off with Susanne Kiermayer (one of Germany’s most prominent shooters in Olympic history), and ended up winning a bronze medal.
“I still remember being up on the podium. It’s a word we’ve heard a lot this last week, but it really is surreal, you think you’re dreaming.
“It’s just amazing. The adrenalin, the excitement, everything.
“It still gives me goosebumps talking about it.”
Also stuck firmly in Deserie’s memory from Atlanta 1996 was the weather.
Having grown up in the heat of Mildura, where she was still living at the time, Atlanta’s high temperatures and humidity were still a shock.
“It is one of the main things I remember, because it was just so hot and humid, it was incredible,” she said.
“The other thing that sticks with me was the atmosphere.
“I’d walk around the athlete’s village and be looking at all these athletes and think ‘oh, there’s such and such’ – I’d recognise an athlete who had been in a lot of mainstream media but then I’d step back and be really chuffed to think, hang on, I’m one of those athletes, I’m part of this.”
Deserie was no stranger to international competition, having won a world championship and world cup leading up to the introduction of women’s shooting to the Olympic Games.
She has been a registered member of a national shooting association since age 10, and was originally drawn to the sport by her father who had travelled the country competing.
“Dad was my main instigator in getting me involved in the sport,” Deserie said.
“He travelled around Australia shooting in competitions.
“As kids, we tried playing softball and netball and all the rest of it, but then we’d have to go off to another shoot somewhere and couldn’t play that weekend.
“So, it was really a case of, well I’m here, I might as well try this.”
And it is a sport the Deserie loves, in fact it brought she and husband Steve together and he was no stranger to international competition either, having won a New Zealand title and competed in four world cups.
“I just love the equality of shooting as a sport, there’s no discrimination,” Deserie said.
“For example, in the men’s skeet event at Tokyo this week a chap was 57-years-old and competing at the highest level circuit there is.
“You can compete against kids, men, women, it’s amazing.”
Deserie is still a keen competitor, although these days only domestically as she has obtained an international referee certificate which prevents her from competing internationally.
In the next fortnight she will compete at the state titles in Adelaide in trap and mixed teams.
With so much experience under her belt, Deserie is now passing on her knowledge to other up-and-coming shooters as a network coach, assisting pathway athletes working their way up the ranks.
“I’ve got eight athletes across Australia that I’m mentoring,” she said.
“I’m able to give something back to the sport and working closely with Shooting Australia to get those kids on board and trained up.
“You might not see them necessarily at the Paris Olympics in 2024, but I do expect you will see some of them in Los Angeles in 2028.”