Canadian shooter, 79, becomes Games oldest competitor
To emphasise how much shooting is a sport open to all ages and abilities, look no further than the Commonwealth Games. While some of the talented young Indian shooters, led by 16-year old Manu Bhaker, are earning rave reviews with their medal-winning exploits at the Belmont Shooting Complex in Brisbane, there are also tales to savour at the other end of the age scale.
Canadian Robert Pitcairn, at the sprightly age of 79 years and nine months, has become the oldest competitor in the history of the Commonwealth Games after he finished eighth in the Queen’s Prize Pairs finals on Tuesday.
Pitcairn, from Chilliwack, B.C., teamed up with Nicole Rossignol of Quebec City to put in a respectable showing in the full-bore shooting event.
His appearance meant he broke the age record previously held by England’s Doreen Flanders, who turned out in lawn bowls at Glasgow in 2014 a few weeks after her 79th birthday.
And this is not the first time Pitcairn has hogged the headlines. The former pilot made national news back in 1974 when he thwarted a hijack attempt on a commercial flight in Saskatoon, as a would-be assailant was threatening a member of his crew with a knife.
And Pitcairn is not finished at the Games just yet. He is involved in the Queen’s Prize individual event, which started on Wednesday and will wind up on Saturday.
Saturday, April 14
Bailey's silver delivers fitting finale
Australia's Jim Bailey rounded off the host nation's Commonwealth Games shooting campaign with a flourish, bagging the silver medal in the Queens Prize Individual competition on the final day of shooting. Bailey was kept out of the gold medal position by England's David Luckman, who retained his title in Brisbane. The bronze medal was snared by another Englishman, Parag Patel. Australia's other representative, Ben Emms, ended up in ninth spot. The Aussie contingent in the 50m Rifle 3 Positions were unable to muscle into the medal berths. Dane Sampson, a gold medal winner earlier in the Games, took seventh, while Will Godward was 12th. Sanjeev Rajput continued India's impressive showing by grabbing gold. Silver went to Canada's Grzegorz Sych, with bronze taken by Dean Bale of England. Mitchell Iles put in a sound performance for Australia by landing fifth in the men's Trap. Compatriot Thomas Grice was dismissed in the qualifiers when he tabled a 15th place finish. The gold medal was picked up by Michael Wixey of Wales. Behind him was Aaron Heading of England who left with silver and Malta's Brian Galea accepted bronze.
Friday, April 13
Scanlan back from the brink to snatch gold
Defending champion Laetisha Scanlan smashed a heart-stopping final shot to win gold in the women’s Trap on the sixth day of shooting action at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. Scanlan crept into the final in sixth spot from the qualifiers, but pipped Kirsty Barr of Northern Ireland with 38 shots to 37 out of 50. Bronze went to Sarah Wixey of Wales.
There was disappointment for Rio Olympic gold medallist Catherine Skinner when she failed to negotiate her way through the qualifiers and had to depart after logging eighth. Australia’s Sergei Evglevski collected a commendable silver medal as he was kept out of top spot by Indian teenage sensation Anish Bhanwala in the men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol. The young Aussie had to bow to the incredible achievement of 15-year-old Bhanwala, who came out on top with a Games record tally of 30. In the process, he became India’s youngest-ever gold medal winner. However Evgleski, 20, son of stalwart shooter Lalita Yauhleuskaya, put in a stellar debut Games performance which augurs well for his future in the sport.
Aussie veteran David Chapman, who won gold at Glasgow 2014, was also in the mix in the closing stages before he had to settle for fourth. The medal positions were completed by Sam Gowin of England who collared the bronze. Australian pair Robyn Ridley and Emma Adams were unable to derail the relentless Indian push for medals in the women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions.The Indian duo of Tejaswini Sawant and Anjum Moudgil collected gold and silver respectively. Ridley made it through to the final where she played her part in a tense, tightly contested decider. Adams had been left behind in the qualifiers, where she managed 14th spot. In a taxing discipline, Ridley held on until the elimination stages of the closing segment of shooting. But she was nodding her head in disappointment as she knew she was sliding out. Sure enough, Ridley made the exit from seventh along with Scotland’s Jennifer McIntosh, who was trailing in eighth. Ridley had come up against Sawant the previous day in the 50m Rifle Prone when the Indian claimed silver. So she probably knew what to expect.
As the medals were sorted out, Scotland’s Seonaid McIntosh, sister of Jennifer, repeated her bronze placing of the previous day. That left the Indian twosome to haggle over the gold with the final single shots of the competition. It was Sawant who held her nerve to prevail.
Thursday, April 12
Medals out of reach for Ridley and Smith
Australian duo Robyn Ridley and Suzy Smith finished out of medal contention in the women’s 50m Rifle Prone on the fifth day of proceedings at the Commonwealth Games.
Ridley, 35, ended up in ninth spot while Smith had to settle for 13th when the scores were totted up at the Belmont Shooting Complex in Brisbane.
The gold medal was won in convincing style by Singapore’s 18-year-old Martina Lindsay Veloso, who set a Commonwealth Games record with 621.0 points after hogging the lead for much of the latter stages of the event.
It was Veloso’s second gold of the Games, coming hot on the heels of her earlier success in the 10m Air Rifle. Behind Veloso was India’s Tejaswini Sawant, who maintained her country’s impressive showing at these Games by taking the silver medal with a score of 618.9 points. Completing the medal threesome was Seonaid McIntosh of Scotland who clinched bronze.
Wednesday, April 11
Perfect strategy sees Repacholi rewarded with gold
Daniel Repacholi, the gentle giant from Cessnock, struck gold for Australia in the men’s 50m Pistol on the fourth day of shooting action at the Commonwealth Games.
However, it was a tale of so near yet so far for Aussie teammate Emma Cox, who had gold within reach but had to settle for silver in the women’s Double Trap at the Belmont Shooting Complex in Brisbane.
The 35-year-old Repacholi brought all his experience into play by keeping track of the leaders as the shots were ticked off and the points tallied up.
He came from behind to leave his final two shots a virtual formality as the packed crowd hushed before erupting in a crescendo of noise as Repacholi completed his business. The savvy competitor is retiring at the conclusion of the Games and his points total of 227.2 was a Commonwealth record.
In the end, Repacholi’s coolness under pressure proved too much for his rivals with Bangladesh’s Shakil Ahmed taking silver on 220.5 points and India’s Om Mitharval bronze, having clocked 201.1 points. Australia’s other representative, Bruce Quick, had been eliminated after his 11th berth in the qualifiers.
Repacholi’s triumph made up for his earlier disappointment when he missed out on defending his Commonwealth crown in the 10m Air Pistol. He felt he had let himself down in that event, but his beaming smile at the moment of this success showed he had already consigned those feelings to history.
“I shot a really, really good final. That’s excellent,” he told AAP. “The other day it didn’t work for me, it just wasn’t my time, but this time it worked fine.” The gold medal also improved on his achievement at the 2014 Glasgow Games when he claimed bronze in the 50m Pistol.
A heartbreaking outcome to the women’s Double Trap meant Cox narrowly missed out on clinching the gold medal. At one stage, the 25-year-old held a healthy lead but she faltered to lose in a sudden-death shoot-off against India’s Shreyasi Singh.
Cox, from Mooroopna in rural Victoria, looked home and dry in regulation shooting when she was required to hit just 19 of her final 30 targets. But she struggled as her earlier accuracy went dramatically astray.
It all boiled down to Cox needing to hit one of her last two targets to win. However, she missed both which resulted in her facing the agony of a play-off with her Indian rival.
And it was Singh who completed the job. She struck both of her targets in the play-off, while Cox could only manage one.
However, Cox was still all smiles at the medals ceremony and blamed her late fade-out on deteriorating weather conditions. “It went really, really dull and the wind picked up a little bit, so the targets were going a bit flatter,” she told AAP.
The bronze medal went to Linda Pearson, of Scotland, while Australia’s Gaye Shale landed seventh spot.
James Willett was hastily bundled out of medal contention in the men’s Double Trap when he was the first shooter to be eliminated in the finals.
The upshot was that Willett had to make do with sixth position. Meanwhile, a Games record score of 74 earned the gold medal for Scotland’s David McMath. Silver went to Tim Kneale from the Isle of Man. The top three was rounded out with India’s Ankur Mittal accepting bronze.
Tuesday, April 10
Close encounter sees Galiabovitch take silver medal
Australian shooter Elena Galiabovitch scooped her second medal of the Games, winning silver in the women’s 25m pistol. Galiabovitch landed bronze on Sunday – her first Commonwealth medal – in the 10am air pistol at the Belmont Shooting Complex in Brisbane.
Then the Melbourne-based doctor improved on that on Tuesday, dropping three shots behind Indian star Heena Sidhu in a thrilling final.
The gold was also Sidhu’s second of the Games, as she had edged out Galiabovitch by carrying off silver in Sunday’s event. The 28-year-old Sidhu shot a final score of 38, including two perfect fives, which was a Commonwealth Games record. The result continued the impressive showing of the Indian team at the Games. Malaysian shooter Alia Sazana Azahari collected the bronze medal.
Australia’s other representative in the final, Lalita Yauhleuskaya, finished eighth on the ladder.
Australian gold medal winner Dane Sampson was unable to pull off a repeat performance in the men’s 50m Rifle Prone event.
Sampson tasted glory on the opening day when he grabbed gold in the men’s 10m Air Rifle. But it was a different tale two days later when he failed to progress past the qualifying round with a 12th placing forcing an early exit.
It was left to Bendigo shooter James Daly to be invested with Australia’s hopes into the final. The 29-year old delivered some impressive scoring before he departed from the scene and finished in sixth spot.
At the business end of proceedings, David Phelps of Wales took home the gold medal. The other podium honours went to Scotland’s Neil Stirton (silver) and Englishman Kenneth Parr (bronze).
Medals proved elusive for Aussie duo Jim Bailey and Ben Emms in the Queens Prize pairs, competed over two days. At one stage the twosome flirted with medal contention by holding on to a top three berth. But in the final count it was not to be, as they ended up sixth.
English duo Parag Patel and David Luckman took gold, with silver going to Wales’ Chris Watson and Gareth Morris. Rounding out the medal positions were Alexander Walker and Ian Shaw of Scotland, who clinched the bronze.
Monday, April 9
Bell’s bold effort secures silver medal
A finishing flurry from Australia’s Kerry Bell saw him fall agonisingly short of the gold medal in the men’s 10m Air Pistol on the second day of Commonwealth Games shooting action at the Belmont range in Brisbane.
Bell lined up alongside fellow Aussie and defending champion Daniel Repacholi, and both men gave a good account of themselves in the final as they tried to bridge the points gap that had been opened up by Indian pair Jitu Rai and Om Mitharval.
Amid rising tension, those were the last four involved as the drama moved into its closing stages. A packed auditorium was left disappointed as Repacholi had to bow out and be content with a fourth-placed finish. But Bell kept going and nudged Mitharval aside to set up the deciding shots with Rai.
Eventually it transpired that Rai had done just enough to hang on and collect the gold. For Bell, who hails from the Sydney suburb of Leumeah, picking up a silver medal was no mean feat in his first appearance at the Games. Indeed, he only took up pistol shooting in 2012 at the age of 41.
In Repacholi’s case, there was regret that he was unable to repeat his achievement of four years ago when he took gold at the Glasgow Games. But it was a highly creditable effort by the Cessnock stalwart to push the Indian duo so hard.
The youngest member of the Aussie shooting squad, 16-year-old Tori Rossiter, put in a sterling performance to qualify for the final of the women’s 10m Air Rifle after finishing in third spot. She eventually ended up with a seventh placing. Her great friend, 19-year-old Emma Adams, who was formerly the youngest in the shooting ranks, failed to make it through qualifying after being stranded in 16th.
The gold medal was claimed by Singapore’s Martina Lindsay Veloso, who saw off Indian pair Mehuli Ghosh (silver) and Apurvi Chandela (bronze).
There was no luck for Australian hopefuls Paul Adams and James Boulding in the men’s Skeet. Both were eliminated in the qualifiers, with SSAA member Adams managing a seventh berth while Boulding was two rungs further down in ninth.
The gold medal belonged to Georgios Achilleos of Cyprus, who came out ahead of silver medallist Ben Llewellin of Wales. Bronze went to Northern Ireland’s Gareth McAuley.
Sunday, April 8
Sampson lands gold medal on home turf
It was a case of all’s well that ends well for Australian shooter Dane Sampson as he started the host nation’s Commonwealth Games campaign by winning the gold medal in the men’s 10m air rifle at the Belmont range in Brisbane.
Sampson looked to have squandered his chance of victory when he made a hash of his final shot in front of a raucous, partisan crowd. But just to show how much nerves play a crucial part in shooting at the top level, it was the turn of Bangladesh’s Abdullah Hel Baki to throw away his own golden opportunity.
Sampson could only look on as Baki stepped up for his closing effort. Even the TV commentators had given up on Sampson’s prospects. “Has he blown it?” was the exasperated cry from the gantry. But the Bangladeshi, who only needed 10.1 to wrap things up, succumbed to the pressure and Sampson was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief and savour an emotional moment.
It was a home triumph in every sense as 31-year-old Sampson grew up in the small town of Coominya, just a short drive from the Games venue. So he is very familiar with the Belmont range.
“It feels like my home, this place,” Sampson told AAP. There could have been further celebrations for Australia as Adelaide teenager Alex Hoberg, 16, almost followed Sampson on to the podium. He ended up being pipped for bronze in fourth spot behind India’s Ravi Kumar.
There was another medal for Australia on the opening day of shooting as Elena Galiabovitch claimed bronze in the women’s 10m air pistol.
The Melbourne-based doctor showed a tough streak to score 214.9 points in her first international final, as 16-year-old Indian Manu Bhaker carried off the gold medal in stunning style, notching a Games record total of 240.9. India also claimed the silver medal thanks to Heena Sidhu.
The other Australian entrant, Lalita Yauhleuskaya, had bowed out at the qualifying juncture when she managed 10th.
There was disappointment for another Victorian, 18-year-old Aislin Jones. She did all the hard work to reach the final of the women’s skeet after impressing as third top qualifier. However, she was the first shooter to be eliminated in the final and had to settle for sixth spot. Fellow Aussie and SSAA member Laura Coles was despatched in the qualifying stage when she finished ninth.
In the medal positions, Cyprus shooter Andri Eleftheriou took gold and compatriot Panagiota Andreou landed bronze. Sandwiched in between as silver medallist was England’s Amber Hill.