Gabriela (Gabby) Franco has been shooting since the age of 11. At the age of 16, Gabby became part of the Venezuelan Olympic Team, and won her first International Silver Medal at the Bolivarian Games in Peru (1997). Since then Gabby became one of the favorite pistol shooter of the Team, competing in 14 different countries in five years and earning at least a dozen of International titles. She became the Venezuelan National Champion for several years, and placed 37th in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Gabby moved to the United States in 2002 shortly after her last match in Brazil (the South American Games) where she won three gold medals. On the fourth season of History channel's Top Shot, Gabby was the first woman to advance to the individual competition.
Currently Gabby is a firearms instructor in the Miami area. She is an active competitor in the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). Her website is www.gabbyfranco.com.
What were the most valuable things you learned from your time at Top Shot?
1. To be patient.
2. I am capable of doing a lot of things despite being a woman of my size. (Author note: Gabby is petite.)
3. Being grateful to God for every day I spent there, I felt lucky.
4. Anything is possible! I just need to believe it.
How would you describe your experience on the Venezuelan team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney?
Unforgettable! As an athlete I always saw the Olympic Games as something unreachable -- something only super-athletes have the opportunity to do. It was only when I was at the Olympic Games that I realized I was one of those athletes. I remember everything like yesterday, and I can't believe it has been over 10 years since I was there.
What are your favorite things about Miami?
Oh wow... there are so many things! I love the weather, which is similar to Venezuela's weather.
When I train for a half-marathon, I go for a run on the beach every other Saturday at 6 a.m. I can see the sun rise while I run! It is priceless... I love it. I love that I can go anywhere in Miami and get a very tasty Hispanic meal. I love the music and the people.
What types of shooters or experience levels do you train?
Any! I love to teach beginners because I can teach them all from scratch, and the results are impressively fast. Experienced shooters, for me, are like a challenge. They believe in their own technique, even though they don't shoot the bulls-eye of the target over and over again. When I change their body position and grip, they are a little concerned. But when they start seeing results, they are impressed.
What can people expect when they receive firearms instruction from you?
I give high quality classes to my students. Any instructor can teach you how to shoot and make holes in the paper. But my classes go beyond that. I will teach you how to shoot the bulls-eye over and over again, bringing out the best in you. It is always my goal to teach students how to shoot well and enjoy the sport. All techniques I teach can be used for any shooting activity -- tactical, IDPA, USPSA, Cowboy Action, target shooting, etc. It is all about being accurate and consistent.
In one of your blog posts, you write that it is very important that women receive firearms training when there is a gun in the home. Why is proper training so important in that situation?
I believe that a firearm is purchased for home protection because you believe an intruder could jeopardize your tranquility and put your life in danger. If this firearm is the only resource you are counting on to save your family, then you should learn how to use it!
Not only are you an Olympic shooter, Top Shot finalist, and world champion shooter, you are great at salsa and flamenco dancing. How long have you been dancing? What are some great places in the Miami area for salsa and flamenco?
I learned to dance at the age of five. Since then I have been in love with music, especially if I can dance to it. There is a good place at the Dolphin Mall called Mojitos where they have great Salsa dancing nights! In Miami Beach, you can enjoy live flamenco music and beautiful dancers at Bailoras, on Española Way.
What three things can South Florida residents do right now to educate themselves about firearms?
1. First, understand that education is better than regulation. Get more involved, and understand that criminals will always find firearms. We all should protect our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.
2. Take a shooting class and see the other side of shooting: Competitions, fun activities, family activities, a good way to relieve stress, etc.
3. Make sure politicians don't take away your right to bear arms. The good civilians will be the first ones to be disarmed, leaving us unprotected. You can see countries in South America, Central America, etc. where civilians suffer every day under the hands of armed criminals.
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