Finland's Athens 2004 Paralympic champion and European rifle bronze medallist Minna Leinonen believes that she is stronger than ever heading into this week's (18-26 July) 2014 IPC Shooting World Championships and is confident of adding a coveted World title to her collection.
Leinonen picked up a Paralympic title 10 years ago at her first Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004. However until recently, the intervening years have not resulted in many top-three finishes at major internationals for the 32-year-old. This is despite success at IPC Shooting World Cups.
"I think I've always been in form and have had abilities to win medals," she said. "Even though there has been years without success in main competitions, there hasn't been any year without success in World Cups. But, succeeding in most valuable competitions consists of very small things. I think I am mentally stronger now and have better abilities to win a world title."
The reason behind Leinonen's confidence could also be the R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2) bronze medal from October's 2013 European Championships in Alicante, Spain. Before that, a qualification world record was to come in the same event at a World Cup in Antalya, Turkey.
"I have stronger faith in my skills," Leinonen said. "There are also some small technical improvements that I've been working on with my coach. I feel very good. Training has been going well and my equipment is working as I want it to. I rely on my skills and my equipment. All in all, it's nice to go to Suhl."
The upcoming Worlds in Suhl, Germany, also provide athletes with their first qualification opportunity for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Leinonen's ambition once again is to be the best on the largest stage possible.
"My target is to shoot a medal there," she said. "That's one of my biggest dreams and I believe in my possibilities. Competing in such a high-level event as World Championships itself is a meaningful thing for me. It's a great opportunity to compare your own level with others as most of us are aiming at Rio."
Leinonen will indeed have many great competitors to measure herself up against. The gold and silver medallists from Alicante 2013, Serbia's world champion Dragan Ristic and Ukrainian Paralympic champion Vasyl Kovalchuk, will be taking their places on the firing points. China's Hongxiang Yuan, the silver medallist from the 2010 World Championships, will also line-up.
Leinonen remains confident of her abilities just a few days out from Suhl 2014. "I don't know what sets me apart from others," she said. "But I can say this: I work resiliently and positively for my goals and dreams.
"And I know how to shoot."
Leinonen will be one of 265 athletes from 53 countries competing at the 2014 IPC Shooting World Championships from 18-26 July.
More information, including live results, will be available at www.suhl2014.com.
High quality pictures will be available to download from each day at https://www.flickr.com/photos/Paralympic .