Willett falters after flying start but still happy with fifth spot in Double Trap

It was a case of so near, yet so far for Australia’s James Willett, who had to be content with fifth place in the men’s Double Trap at the Rio Olympics. Willett contested a three-man shoot-off with British pair Steven Scott and Tim Kneale for the right to progress to the bronze medal stage at the Olympic Shooting Centre, but a sole miss meant he was demoted to fifth spot. Scott duly grabbed the bronze from his countryman, while Kuwaiti Fehaid Aldeehani, who was involved as an independent Olympic athlete, won gold when he saw off Italy’s Marco Innocenti in the ultimate decider.

Twenty-year-old Willett reached the final with an Olympic record 140 from 150 shots. En route he shot two straight clean sweeps of 30s. It seemed that he could not miss. And that went on into the final. His initial 13 shots were spot-on, before he missed two from four.

Events appeared to unnerve him and he was suddenly falling short. From chasing the gold medal he was instantly in a scramble for bronze. He managed one from two shots and was out. It was a brutal fate but the youngster was philosophical about how things had turned out. “I was pretty happy with my first Olympics,” Willett said.“It was a great experience. I missed out on the medals but I’ll take it home and work on it for Tokyo.”

Willett is a SSAA member and his dad, Arthur, has been a SSAA member his whole life. He started off by gaining his gun licence at the age of 12 and participated in the Down the Line discipline through high school. He shot all the Olympic disciplines, but focused on Double Trap in 2015 to make the Games. His passion for the sport means that he is a regular visitor to SSAA SHOT Expos.

Willett came to Rio for his Olympic debut ranked number one in the world, an amazing feat remembering he had only started the Double Trap event two years ago. He has enjoyed a meteoric surge since, landing fourth place at last year’s World Championships in Lonato in Italy and winning the Rio World Cup event last April.

Willett, from Mulwala in New South Wales’ Riverina region, was hoping to became the first Australian to win the Double Trap since Russell Mark at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Amid gloomy and blustery conditions, he began in a startling manner when he and Germany’s Andreas Loew clocked an Olympic record total of 140 in the qualification round. Willett, who trains on a range specially built on his farm on the border of Victoria and New South Wales, logged a perfect 30 in the first round, 24 in the second, another perfect 30 in the third, 29 in the fourth and 27 in the fifth, for his 140.

Willett continued in the same vein in the final by shooting a perfect score through the opening six doubles but hit strife when he fluffed his first targets in the seventh and eighth doubles. He missed another in the 10th double and became one of four shooters in equal second place, before falling one target short for the rest of the semi-final to finish with a total of 26.

Kneale stepped up first in the shoot-off to move through to the bronze medal match and he zapped both targets before Willett missed his second. Scott tallied scores with both his attempts, sending Willett crashing out of the reckoning.

Again, Willett took time to reflect on how things had panned out. “It’s a big mental side of the sport I will take from here,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was good to make the final. I was pleased with the end result. There was a lot more pressure here than any other competitions I have been to…I still haven’t been competing for two years in this event so it gives me a lot of confidence going in to Tokyo and the next four years.”

Earlier in the day, Daniel Repacholi finished 28th in the men’s 50m Pistol. It was his second and last event of the Games, following his 44th in the 10m Air Pistol.

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