ShootingNewsDania Vizzi

From Juilliard To The Olympic Skeet Field: ‘Shooterina’ Dania Vizzi Is On Her Way

by Bob Reinert

(L-R) Dania Vizzi and Austen Smith pose for a photo during shotgun training ahead of the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Brittany Nelson)

She’s not sure exactly where it originated, but somewhere along the line Dania Vizzi acquired the nickname “Shooterina.”


It perfectly fits Vizzi, a former ballerina who began dancing at age 3 and later shifted gears to become a world champion skeet shooter.


“I don’t know who gave it to me first, actually,” Vizzi said. “But I still, to this day, use the ‘Shooterina’ nickname because I love it.”


Vizzi does recall when her dream changed from dancing with a ballet company or in a Broadway show to becoming an Olympic skeet shooting champion. She was 16 years old and attending a summer dance program at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.


“I was one of 12 in the world to get in,” Vizzi said. “I went for the summer, and I found myself in New York City missing shooting. That’s when I decided to do the career change from dance to shooting.”


When she returned home to Tampa, Florida, her focus had changed entirely.


“My life took a complete 180 (degree turn),” Vizzi said. “I went from full hair and makeup with blinged-out costumes competing in dance with my mom every weekend to outside, shooting a shotgun with my dad on my weekends.


“To this day, I still love dancing. But I love shotgun shooting. It really is my passion.”


A dozen years later at age 28, Vizzi finds herself at the pinnacle of her sport, on the threshold of making her Olympic debut with Team USA next year at the Olympic Games Paris 2024. 


“I have been close twice and just never quite made it on the team, so I think this is my year,” said Vizzi, the 2017 world champion. “Right now, I’m sitting in first place for the Olympic team. I think if I just keep working like I am and not slack off, I think it’s my time.”


In August, at the 2023 world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, Vizzi collected an individual silver medal in women’s skeet and claimed gold in the women’s team skeet, setting a world record score of 365 with fellow Americans Austen Smith and Samantha Simonton.


“It was really cool to come home with a world record,” Vizzi said. “I respect everybody on our team, and we are all very good at what we do. For us, making a team in the U.S. is almost as hard as winning a medal overseas, just because of the caliber of our athletes here.”

Dania Vizzi shooting during shotgun training ahead of the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Brittany Nelson)

Next up for Vizzi are the Pan American Games that run Oct. 20-Nov. 5 in Santiago, Chile. Vizzi earned a bronze medal at the Pan American Games Lima 2019.


“So now, I’m just getting ready for that,” said Vizzi, “and I’m excited to compete in my second Pan Am Games and hopefully bring home another medal.


“I try to be at the range right now six days a week just working hard because there’s always somebody working harder than you are. I really try to not take too many days off.”


Vizzi has come a long way from the 13-year-old city girl who shot for the first time and hated it.


“I shot twice, looked at my dad, and he just saw the tears rolling down my face,” she recalled. “Didn’t pick up a gun again until I was 16. I tried it again, and I absolutely fell in love with it. My shooting career kind of began from there, in a way.


“A lot of my competitors and fellow teammates kind of grew up in the outdoor industry, so maybe hunting with their families or shooting at a younger age.”


Vizzi, a 2017 University of Florida graduate with a degree in marketing, devotes most of her time to her sport, but she has dabbled in acting and modeling and would like to do more with that side of her life in the future.


“If the opportunity came to me, I would 100 percent do it because I feel like it kind of goes back to my dancing side where I love being outgoing,” she said. “I love acting because dance, in a way, is acting on stage.”


Vizzi still performs, but now the skeet field serves as her stage.


“My dream was always to go to Juilliard, and I did get to do that,” she said. “I am very glad that I get to do what I do now. I’ve been able to travel the world and compete for my country, and that’s something I could have never done as a dancer.


“Shooting is something you can do forever. It’s something I can do with my kids and my grandkids. Dancing is not something your body can do forever.”

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