Vella sounds rallying cry despite Australian shooters missing out

It was a story of disappointment for Australia’s shooters on day three of the Olympic Games in Rio as a hopeful foursome all suffered early exits. Adam Vella and teenage debutant Mitchell Iles both slumped out in the qualification round of the men’s Trap with Vella finishing 12th and Iles settling for a 26th placing. The news was little better in the men’s 10m Air Rifle with Dane Sampson and Jack Rossiter experiencing similar fates. Sampson ended up in 37th spot, while Rossiter had to be content with 46th position.

Perhaps the pressure was all too much for 17-year-old Iles, who endured a tortuous route to earn his spot in the Australian shooting squad. Iles replaced two-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Diamond, who had been deemed ineligible by selectors following some personal challenges prior to the Games. Iles also had to lodge an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after having been overlooked in the first phase of the squad being announced. “The lead-up wasn’t exactly what you’d want before coming to an event like this,” he told AAP. “But look, I got here in the end so that was the main plan.”

For 45-year-old Vella, it is the end of the road in terms of Olympics and he took time to reflect on what had unfolded leading up to the Rio campaign. “Everyone likes a nice, clean run to an event – especially like this – and whenever there’s controversy around a selection or something like that, it’s got to play some part,” Vella told AAP. “Of the three Olympics I have done, it was probably the worst run-up to a Games.”

Realising they had a major task to reach the final six after the first three qualifying rounds, both Australians failed to make headway. Iles tallied 22 and Vella 21 in the fourth round to leave them well adrift approaching the business end. In the final round Vella shot well to finish on a score of 115 and Iles recovered from a woeful opening where he fluffed his first two targets to clock 23 for a score of 110.

Despite the fade-out, Vella remained upbeat about where the shooting sports were heading in Australia and cited Catherine Skinner’s gold medal achievement in the women’s Trap as great motivation. “Obviously Catherine winning was absolutely fantastic,” Vella said. “Shooting Australia has done a great job. The program is working…Everyone here is a great person. Really professional and I’m here to help in any way I can.”

At least for Sampson, there are still opportunities for redemption. The 29-year-old will compete in the men’s 50m Rifle Prone on August 12 and the 50m Rifle 3 Position on August 14.

Nineteen-year-old Rossiter should probably view the outcome as part of his learning curve on the international stage. At such a tender age, he will realise that there will be plenty more opportunities to impress in the years ahead.

For the record, Josip Glasnovic won gold for Croatia in the men’s Trap, beating Italy’s Giovanni Pellielo in a four-shot shoot-off. For 46-year-old Pellielo, the result meant his third silver medal in his seventh Olympic appearance. Edward Ling, a 33-year-old Briton, took the bronze medal from David Kostelecky, of the Czech Republic, by a 13-9 margin.

Italian Niccolo Campriani collected the third Olympic medal of his career, winning the men’s 10m Air Rifle event. The silver medal went to Serhiy Kulish, of Ukraine, with Vladimir Maslennikov, of Russia, sealing bronze.

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