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Dan Repacholi: Hunter politician takes aim at Olympic gold


Dan Repacholi will enter a unique club when he touches down in Paris later this year. 

With a sixth Olympic Games appearance all but booked in for 26 July to 11 August, the local air pistol champion, who’s probably better known as the Hunter federal MP, is set to join the likes of sailor Colin Beashel, rower James Tomkins, fellow shooters Russell Mark and Michael Diamond, equestrian rider Mary Hanna, table tennis player Jian Fang-Lay and cyclist Stuart O’Grady as athletes to don the “green and gold” on six occasions. 

Only respected horseman Andrew Hoy, with eight, has represented Australia more. 

It’s a phenomenal achievement in anyone’s books. 

Dan, who took over the seat following the retirement of Joel Fitzgibbon, was just 22 when he made his Olympics debut at Athens in 2004. 

The Cessnock-based politician followed it up at Beijing (2008), London (2012), Rio (2016) and Tokyo (2020). 

“My goal’s always been to go to Olympic Games… and to succeed there,” he said. 

“I haven’t done that yet [win] and, honestly, that’s what’s driven me to attend five and what is also driving me to make a sixth.” 

It’s a different story for the “man mountain” in the Commonwealth Games arena. 

On that stage, Dan’s claimed three gold medals – 50m pistol pairs (Melbourne 2006), 10m air pistol (Glasgow 2014) and 50m pistol (Gold Coast 2018). 

Not to be outdone, bronze has also come his way in the 10m air pistol pairs (Melbourne 2006), 10m air pistol (Delhi 2010) and 50m pistol (Glasgow 2014). 

Dan Repacholi wins gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

“Clearly, the Olympics is a lot harder than other competitions,” he said. 

“It’s the world’s best. 

“If it was easy, everyone would be doing it,” he added with a grin. 

“However, it’s a sport I love; it’s a sport that’s given me a lot. 

“Plus, it has presented me with some amazing opportunities. 

“So, I’ll always give back to it.” 

A fitter by trade and a former employee at Mt Thorley Warkworth near Singleton, Dan was “honoured” to represent Labor when nominated as its candidate in November 2021. 

“It wasn’t a hard decision to step into Joel’s shoes,” he told the Newcastle Weekly

“I’d spoken to him many times [at functions] in the past about how the place is going and things like that, as well as the party. 

“From there, it just progressed very quickly.” 

And, throughout it all, Dan’s been blessed to have wife Alex and his two beautiful daughters Zoe and Asha in his corner. 

“Family is everything to me,” he said. 

“From my parents, early on in my career, and then Alex and the girls, I couldn’t have done any of this without them.” 

In May 2020, Dan was also inducted into the Cessnock Hall of Fame for his services to sport. 

But, he’s targeting so much more. 

Dan’s most at home amongst the rural landscape of his beloved Cessnock. Photo: Peter Stoop.

Ten quick questions to learn more about Dan Repacholi: 

You’re on target for your sixth Games appearance… you must be extremely proud of that achievement? 

I think it’ll sink in when I finally retire and look back at what I have done in the sport and what I have achieved. 

At the moment, I am just focused on making the team for my sixth Olympics. 

How and when did your shooting journey begin? 

My parents were shooters and members of the local pistol club in Melton in Victoria where I grew up. 

My mum worked nights on the weekends as a nurse so, to let her sleep, my dad would take my brother and I to the pistol club. 

There, we would spend the whole day running around and then when I turned 12, I was legally allowed to shoot. 

I did pretty well from the outset. 

We spent all our weekends there and I eventually represented the club at events, before I was chosen in the state team and finally representing Australia at age 16. 

What’s been the highlights so far? 

Being selected in my first Olympic team was a special moment. 

But, for me, winning gold in front of my wife, my daughters and my family at the Gold Coast was an incredible moment. 

Combining work (in the mining industry and now politics) and training, you must have received great support from the Cessnock community over many years? 

I have had great support from the community in the past and currently. 

People constantly stop me in the street and wish me all the best on my upcoming events and I have spoken with schools and community groups about my journey. 

How important has your family been? 

Family is everything. 

My parents got me into the sport and then supported me the whole way through my shooting journey.  

They drove me to events and helped fund all my overseas trips. 

My wife Alex has been a rock, allowing me to travel around the world to hundreds of events and, as we started a family, she has been there to look after the girls as I trained, travelled and competed. 

I couldn’t have done any of this without her. 

What’s the secret to such a lengthy career and do you still pinch yourself that you’re competing against the world’s best? 

As you can tell, peak physical fitness is not a requirement for shooters, so we tend to be able to compete longer than athletes who have to stay trim and taught. 

We have seen Olympians in their 60s competing in shooting. 

It’s also a sport that doesn’t pay any money, so we do it purely because we love the sport and love competing. 

What goal have you set yourself for Paris? 

If I am lucky enough to make it, then for me it’s all about shooting my best on the day. 

That’s all. 

If I shoot my best, then I should be in the mix, but if someone has a better day then that’s great for them. 

When you hang up the pistol for good, how do you want sportsman Dan Repacholi to be remembered? 

I haven’t really thought about it. 

For me, I just want people to have a better understanding of the sport. 

Most people see guns and think we are all rednecks, but that isn’t the case. 

So, I hope when I finally retire, people see the sport in a different light.  

You’re a relative newcomer to the world of politics, how have you found it? You once told me you truly loved what you do? 

I love my job… and this is the best thing I have ever done. 

The hours are long and when I fit in training around those hours the days are even longer but I have enjoyed every second of it. 

I love being out talking with people. 

I have always been good at that and this job is about being out and hearing and talking to people in the community. 

So, you’re keen to keep working for your electorate as we head to the next federal election. What issues are important to you moving forward? 

The big issues that I hear about daily are obviously cost-of-living, as well as the housing crisis. 

I will continue to work on addressing both of those and making sure the voices of residents across the Hunter electorate are heard in Canberra. 

Dan Repacholi will feature on this month’s Newcastle Weekly cover

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