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Aussie shooters strike gold at Glasgow Commonwealth Games

Australia’s shooters turned in a supreme effort at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games to put the sport firmly back in the spotlight. The 29-strong squad finished on top of the shooting medals table with a haul of six gold medals and two bronze from the five days of action at the Barry Buddon Centre at Carnoustie on Scotland’s east coast. That was enough to pip England, which came second with five gold, two silver and eight bronze. Third was India, which collected four gold, nine silver and four bronze. Singapore was fourth, thanks to two gold, and the gold count was completed by Cyprus, which claimed one gold, one silver and a bronze.

It was a sparkling return to prominence for the Australian Shooting Team after the disappointments of the London Olympics in 2012 when they took home no medals. The tally of three gold, two silver and two bronze from the Delhi Commonwealth Games four years ago had been the worst outcome for 32 years. With just 19 gold medal categories up for grabs this year, compared to previous Games schedules where the pairs events expanded the number to 36, the team’s achievement has been even more remarkable. It helped propel Australia to second overall in the Games medals table behind England.

As the events came to a close, a delighted Shooting Australia CEO Damien Marangon was able to reflect on a rewarding performance by the squad at the Games. The results vindicated a renewed emphasis by the shooting hierarchy on its high-performance training program. And a hunger for prolonged international success for the sport had been firmly set in motion. “We are thrilled with how the athletes have responded, especially under pressure,’’ said Marangon.

The Australian Shooting Team produced more gold in five days than any other competing Commonwealth nation in the same sport. The team’s success was ranked third on the overall Australian medal tally, behind swimming and cycling.

The unified front of the shooting fraternity does indeed seem to suggest bright days ahead. It is all a stark contrast to the internal bickering, which plunged the athletics team into crisis after head coach Eric Hollingsworth was suspended for his critical outburst against star performer and team captain Sally Pearson. Hollingsworth’s ill-advised broadside came as the athletics schedule was still in motion and showed just what can happen to teams as the pressure of competition intensifies. However, the feel-good atmosphere and camaraderie evident among the shooters after their events had finished does them great credit.

The town of Carnoustie is 145km from Glasgow and famed for its golfing reputation. Carnoustie Golf Links is one of the venues in The Open Championship’s rotation and has been nicknamed in the media as ‘Carnasty’ in reference to its difficulty. But despite being away from the hub of the action, the shooters certainly got into the rhythm of things. They took their lead from an irreverent Games opening ceremony parade that featured a giant haggis, cabers, golf clubs and a creature that may or may not have been the Loch Ness Monster. There were also 41 Scottish terriers who shuffled in as canine tartan marchers. However, the location also offered challenges for the shooters with several of the Aussie contingent admitting that they had to come to terms with the gusty winds that swirled in from the adjacent North Sea.

10m Air Rifle

Unfortunately, there were no medals here for the Australian pair of teenager Jack Rossiter and Dane Sampson. Rossiter made an early exit after the qualifiers where he finished up in 10th spot, while Sampson managed eighth position in the final. India posted notice of its growing prowess in the shooting world when Abhinav Bidra took out the gold medal. His point tally of 205.3 pushed him clear of Abdullah Baki of Bangladesh, who accumulated a total of 202.1. England’s Daniel Rivers collected bronze thanks to his score of 182.4 points.
For young Rossiter, who was competing at the Games at the tender age of 17, the experience was all part of his learning curve. He works on his technique at Adelaide’s Reynella Shooting Range and was simply pleased to be involved in the action. “I am only 17 so I want to pick up experience,” he said.
Fifteen-year-old Emma Adams took her bow as the youngest competitor in the Australian shooting ranks and she put in a creditable performance before bowing out in 14th spot after the qualifiers. Jennifer Hens also failed to make it past the qualifiers, finishing in 12th position. India completed a one-two in the medals with Apurvi Chandela claiming the gold and team-mate Ayonika Paul taking the silver. The bronze medal went to Malaysia’s Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi.
Adams was introduced to the sport by her father, but he must hold her gun licence so she can compete. She goes through her paces at the same Reynella Range in Adelaide as Rossiter. “I have been training for four years now,’’ she said.

50m Rifle Prone

Old hand Warren Potent stole the show by taking gold for Australia. In windy conditions, 52-year-old Potent had to survive a late surge from India’s Gagan Narang to ensure success with his concluding shot that clocked up a Games record for a final of 204.3 points. The nerves were palpable as a healthy Australian contingent in the crowd held their collective breath with Potent taking aim for his clinching effort after Narang had already fired. Potent admitted to feeling a huge sense of relief about his feat. “It was almost terrifying,” he said. Narang finished on 203.6 points, while the bronze medal was claimed by England’s Kenneth Parr, who tallied 182 points.
Potent is a veteran of four Olympics and snared a bronze at Beijing in 2008. On the Commonwealth Games front, visits to Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne and Delhi have harvested silver and two bronze. “It has been a long time coming,” said Potent. “At my age it’s a huge thing getting a gold.”
Robyn Ridley just missed out on a medal when she finished in fourth place in the final. Behind her was team-mate Jennifer Hens who filled 10th position. The gold medal was collared by Sally Johnston of New Zealand, whose 620.7 points edged out Esmari van Reenan of South Africa (620.1). A count of 619.5 points was enough to seal the bronze medal berth for Scotland’s Jen McIntosh.

50m Rifle 3 Position

Michael Brown made a hasty departure from the qualifiers after a 13th finish. Dane Sampson fared slightly better by getting as far as eighth position in the finals. Gold went to England’s Daniel Rivers, who was in front of Sanjeev Rajput and Gagan Narang, both of India.
Robyn Ridley made it to her finals and grabbed eighth spot. She fared better than Alethea Sedgman, whose fate was sealed when she slumped to 10th in the qualifiers to see her hopes snuffed out. Singapore’s Jasmine Ser saw off the challenge of Scotland’s Jen McIntosh to secure gold, while the bronze medal was taken by India’s Lajja Gauswami.

Men’s 50m Pistol

Daniel Repacholi claimed bronze in the men’s 50m Pistol to add to Australia’s medal count. Repacholi had already won gold in the earlier 10m Air Pistol, so he was well into the swing of things by now. Fellow Aussie Bruce Quick was back in eighth position. The two places in front of Repacholi were cleaned up by an Indian duo, Jitu Rai and Gurpal Singh.

Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol

David Chapman set a finals record in his gold decider by hitting 23 of 40 targets to see off India’s Harpreet Singh and England’s Kristian Callaghan in the six-man line-up. Australia’s Bruce Quick put in a creditable performance to go home sixth.
Forty-nine-year-old Clare Valley farmer David and his daughter Hayley, 22, had already made history at the Games by being the first father-daughter combination to represent Australia in the sport. “It’s been a great family experience, really special...I am extremely privileged to have won a gold medal at my third go,” he said. “At the end of the day, I have the same medal that Usain Bolt or Anna Meares have won, which is so humbling. Also to have my family here with me is just brilliant.”

Women’s 25m Pistol

Australia’s Lalita Yauhleuskaya landed the bronze medal by beating Malaysia’s Alia Sazana Azahari 10-8 in the medal decider. The 50-year-old from Berwick, Victoria, maintained her concentration in a tight finish. Hayley Chapman kept the family name flying by earning sixth spot in the semi-finals. Her plucky effort was unfortunately not enough to prevent an Indian double in the premier medal positions, where Rahi Sarnobat took gold ahead of compatriot Anisa Sayyed.

10m Air Pistol

Daniel Repacholi strode centre stage when he collected gold for Australia. He held off Prakash Nanjappa of India, who took the silver medal. Bronze went to 60-year-old Englishman Michael Gault. “I usually perform good in the final, so I was pretty confident,” said Hunter Valley shooter Repacholi. “It’s great.” The 32-year-old trains at the Cessnock Pistol Club. The other Aussie, Blake Blackburn, made his exit after finishing in 14th spot.
Lalita Yauhleuskaya missed out on adding to her bronze medal at the Games when she had to settle for fourth spot. She amassed 157.7 points to tail bronze medallist Dorothy Ludwig of Canada, who clocked up 177.2 points. At the business end of proceedings, the gold medal went to Singpaore’s Shun Xie Teo, who notched up 198.6 points. Behind her was Indian Malaika Goel on 197.1 points. Aussie hopeful Emily Esposito had her progress snuffed out in the qualifiers, where she managed 11th.

Trap

Adam Vella led the way on day five when he defeated England’s defending champion Aaron Heading 11-9 from 15 shots in the gold medal tussle. The 43-year-old Victorian had previously taken out the Trap pairs in Manchester, Melbourne and Delhi, but this was his first win in the individual discipline after landing bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for two-time Olympic champion Michael Diamond, who was squeezed out of the bronze medal position by India’s Manavjit Sandhu. Vella savoured his success, but appreciated the broader picture. “It’s a great achievement for the whole shooting team,” he said.
Victorian shooter Laetisha Scanlan grabbed gold in the women’s Trap after believing that she had blown her chance following a scrappy qualifying effort. The 24-year-old was ready to leave the venue before squeezing through via the last available berth. The lucky escape possibly worked in her favour. “I had no pressure, I was the underdog,” she said. Scanlan put her gun back together to see off India’s Shreyasi Singh in a sudden-death decider. She then hit 13 out of 15 targets in the final to edge out Cypriot Georgia Konstantinidou, who clocked up a score of 12. The bronze berth was taken by Caroline Povey of England. Australia’s Catherine Skinner suffered a semi-final departure when she had to settle for fifth.

Double Trap

Neither of the Australian men’s hopefuls was able to push on for a place in the Double Trap final. Veteran Russell Mark had been fancied to make an impact, but his push was prematurely punctured when he ended up behind the pack in 10th after the qualifiers. Countryman Tom Turner made it through to the semi-finals where his sixth place was not quite good enough to take him further. England enjoyed a one-two success with Steven Scott stealing gold from Matthew French by a 30-29 margin. Bronze went to India’s Asab Mohd, who overcame Nathan Xuerb of Malta by 26-24.
Australian Double Trap pair Emma Cox and Gaye Shale followed each other home in sixth and seventh positions respectively. They put in valiant efforts, but were unable to disturb the medal winners. Out in front was England’s Charlotte Kerwood with 94 points, who was two points clear of silver medallist Shreyasi Singh of India. Making up the bronze space was another England shooter, Rachel Parish on 91 points.

Skeet

The Aussie men fell at the early hurdles. Keith Ferguson was on his way when he occupied 11th in the qualifying stages. Paul Adams fared better by making the semi-finals before his hopes were also extinguished. It was left to Georgios Achilleos of Cyprus to wrap up gold by beating Scotland’s Drew Christie 14-6. The bronze medal showdown saw England’s Rory Warlow prevail with a narrow 14-13 verdict over Andreas Chasikos, of Cyprus.
In the women’s Skeet, Laura Coles got the Australian campaign off to a flying start and served notice of good things to come on day one. Coles grabbed gold ahead of Wales’ Elena Allen and bronze medallist Andri Eleftheriou of Cyprus. The 27-year-old from Perth had shot 70 in the qualification round to lead the field, then missed only one target out of 16 in the semi-finals to make it into the gold medal shoot-off. “It is the accumulation of many years hard work,” said Coles. “It is absolutely a dream come true.” The other Australian in the event, Lauryn Mark, made her exit after finishing sixth at the semi-final stage.

Queen’s Prize individual

The Australian pair of James Corbett and Geoff Grenfell finished well adrift of the places that counted. In the individual competition, Corbett managed 11th position, while Grenfell was one berth further back in 12th. There was no stopping England’s David Luckman, who collected the gold medal. Jim Parton from Canada was next-best to take silver. Parag Patel added to England’s joy with the bronze medal.
There was more gold for England when their pair were in the ascendancy. The Australian duo missed out on medals due to their fourth placing. The English were followed home by Canada, while Scotland gave home watchers some consolation by picking up the bronze medal.

Looking to 2018

Attention now turns to the next Commonwealth Games where the shooting squad will aim to keep up the good work with a home advantage in 2018. The baton for the Gold Coast Games was officially passed over to Australia in another rousing Scottish farewell, which drew a packed house of more than 40,000 spectators to Hampden Park. After Lulu and Deacon Blue had done their stuff for the Scots, it was the turn of the Australians to take to the stage, with Jessica Mauboy and Kylie Minogue turning on their style. Many of the shooting contingent had already made the trip home and weren’t around for the closing ceremony, but they will surely be looking forward to sampling further success in 2018.

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