Luis Gloria has his sights set on Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
He's shooting up the ranks of the U.S. amateur skeet shooting circuit.
He's a fully loaded talent.
Choose your cliché, but know that Gloria is anything but. An intense and immensely talented dynamo, the 17-year-old Mountain View High School senior is a rare combination of talent, focus and drive.
Under the tutelage of his grandfather and personal coach, Vern Hayden, Gloria clinched a spot on the 22-member Shotgun National Junior Team in July. He plans to move to Colorado Springs, Colo., after graduation to train at the Olympic Training Center, work his way through the ranks and shoot for Olympic gold.
Gloria has been shooting competitively since 2005, but his obsession with firearms began when he was a little boy. He likens himself to Ralphie from "A Christmas Story," begging for a BB gun for as long as he can remember until he finally got his wish at age 6.
He was once removed from preschool because he wouldn't stop making toy guns out of blocks.
As a tween, he took part in 4-H club-sponsored shooting events, learning the air rifle and air pistol before moving on to competitive muzzle loading.
When it was time to relax, he'd play the old Nintendo Entertainment System game "Duck Hunt," aiming for virtual fowl on a projector screen.
Hayden is the stepfather of Gloria's mom, Trisha Carlisle. Gloria's father, also named Luis Gloria, and Carlisle split up when the younger Luis was a toddler. Both have since remarried. Gloria has two sisters: 22-year-old Justine Gloria and 7-year-old Brynna Carlisle. Neither is interested in shooting.
Right away, Hayden, a longtime shooting coach, started working with Gloria on his hand-eye coordination. By age 9, Hayden suspected Gloria would become a national-level talent.
"He has a gift and desire for this type of thing," said Hayden, 69. "You have to have the desire. You put in a lot of hours of shooting drills and things of that nature."
Hayden works with Gloria on his form, concentration, nutrition and physical conditioning. Most of the work takes place upstairs.
"The rest of it is self-confidence," Hayden said. "I can't call him arrogant, but they have to have a total belief in themselves, because of what they do."
"It's really just the act of forgetting, and letting your body do what it does naturally," Gloria said. "A gentleman explained it the best way I have ever heard: 'Being a businessman like I am, I practice all week, learning as much about business as I can. But when it comes to shooting on the weekends, it's all about getting as dumb as I can.' "
Gloria sometimes repeats the word "peanut butter" several times to work himself into a relaxed trance that gets him into the "zone" he desires, in which he can sense, anticipate and react without critical thought getting in the way.
"When I'm shooting really well, I have no idea how many shots I've fired," he said. "I don't remember what day of the week it is. I don't remember what I had for breakfast."
Training gets expensive. Gloria's training requires him to fire off as many as 300,000 rounds a year. Ammunition costs as much as $10 per box of 25 shells. Clay pigeons, which Gloria shoots at, cost between $4 and $5 a round.
Travel costs are often thousands of dollars a month.
Many of his tournaments, which are sanctioned by the Amateur Trapshooting Association and National Skeet Shooting Association take place throughout the Southwest, and as far away as Georgia. When he's not studying or practicing at the Tucson Trap & Skeet Club, 7800 W. Old Ajo Highway, he's usually traveling. Sponsors, such as Briley Manufacturing, help defray some costs.
This weekend he's participating in a tournament in Kerrville, Texas, competing to qualify to compete at the 2013 World Target Clay Championships in Lima, Peru.
Hayden, who bankrolls Gloria, works out discounts to bring down costs, but they're still considerable.
There are other costs involved, as well.
"I've had to give up a lot of my social life to be able to compete and practice and train to reach my goals and dreams," Gloria said. "But in the end it pays off."
That payoff came in July, when Gloria secured a spot on the team at the National Junior Olympic Championships in in Colorado Springs.
"It was outstanding being on the podium," he said. "It was the greatest feeling ever."
When Gloria claimed his spot on the team, Hayden said his chest swelled and he teared up.
"It was a total emotional thing," he said. "It really was. Not many youths have that opportunity."
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org