Dania Vizzi danced her way as a ballerina into a place at The Juilliard School in New York City. And then, she discovered that she would rather be a world-class competitive skeet shooter. As a teenager, she applied her focus to the shooting sports, and hung up her toe shoes to pick up a Perazzi. Last year, at age 22, she entered the world arena of Women’s Skeet and grabbed the ISSF World Champion and USA Shooting National Champion titles. We interviewed Dania to learn more about this rising shooting star.
NRA Family: When people ask you what you do, what do you tell them?
Dania: I tell them I’m an international skeet shooter, which is the Olympic style of the American skeet game. That’s what I first say.
NRA Family: Where do you practice?
Dania: I still train at my home club, year round, about five minutes from my home in Florida. I train every day. Todd Graves is my coach. He’s our national team coach so he travels with us and he’s the only person who has ever medaled internationally in all 3 Olympic style games—skeet, trap and double trap (when it was still around). I’ve been working with him for 3 or 4 years. The National Team will practice together a few times a year, as well. He comes here sometimes to coach me personally.
NRA Family: What does your training session look like?
Dania: I am a full-time student, majoring in marketing, so I only get to put about 250 shells downrange. I try to make it quality shooting. I feel like I used to do that—put 500 shells in—and I wouldn’t go through my routine like I should have. Now, I limit myself … since I’ve transitioned to a more mature way of training, I have really started to do better in my competitions. I keep a training journal whenever my coach comes to town. He shows me so many things in 2 days … I can’t remember it all. I write it down.
NRA Family: About your college, are you hoping to stay in the firearms industry when you graduate?
Dania: I love the shooting industry and I want to stay with that, even when I’m retired from my shooting career. I love everybody in it.
NRA Family: What is it like to cross over from Junior Shooting to World Shooting in the Open category?
Dania: It’s definitely been a huge change. I’ve gone from shooting with people my age and caliber to shooting with Olympians. To shoot with people who never miss is so different. I feel like shooting in the US has prepared me for that … because the US has some of the best shooters in the world. Being able to compete with them four times a year, within the US, has already started preparing me for the world shoots. … I’ve been shooting with these girls for five years and it’s the same thing I’ve been doing here.
NRA Family: What gun did your dad start you on and how did it progress from there?
Dania: It was a .410 and I shot it for American trap a few times, and then he got me a 20-gauge semi-auto and I shot that for a while. When I decided I really wanted to compete in the shooting sports, I flew to New York City to the Perazzi dealer there and he made a gun for me. Now, Perazzi gives me new guns to shoot regularly. I shoot an MX 2000, but next month I’ll switching to their high-tech model, where they’ve made the receiver 2mm wider, so the balance is exactly in the center and there’s almost no recoil.
NRA Family: Why the shooting sports? To some people, it might be dirty and loud.
Dania: I feel like in the beginning … because I transitioned from ballet to shooting … people wanted to know why I was quitting and I would say ‘This is just what I want to do now.’ And now, my friends are asking me to take them shooting and show them how to shoot guns. And I say ‘Of course,’ because I want to see more women in the shooting sports. Now, they all want to learn how to do it, and I think that’s awesome. In fact, I’ve had an impact in women in the sport—because I’ve also been able to get my friends into carrying concealed, too. Even if I can get one or two people to shoot, I’ve been an influence and made a difference.
NRA Family: When’s your next big competition?
Dania: It’s in March, in Tucson, at our spring selection match.
NRA Family: Who are your sponsors?
Dania: My sponsors are Silver Dollar Shooters Club, Perazzi and Clenzoil. All USA shotgun team members shoot Winchester ammunition.
NRA Family: When you’re a brand ambassador, do you feel obligated to post on social media?
Dania: I definitely try to post at least once a week, and more than that if possible. I enjoy it, and I’ve gotten a pretty good following and it’s cool to get the feedback from fans. To me to even think that I have fans is crazy. … I have a good time with it. Definitely, Instagram is my favorite platform, and then, second is Facebook.
Want to follow Dania Vizzi? You won't be sorry!
Lead photo courtesy USA Shooting