Review of the Final Day
With Day 9 being about the ladies, the tenth and final day was all about the men. It had already been a fantastic Games for Team Scotland's shooting team at the Belmont Shooting Centre with 6 medals already banked and on the plane home but there was no time for getting emotional as STS athletes were competing in two more events and with all three athletes scheduled to compete already with one medal each at these Games, they were all looking to double their personal tally and increase Scotland's already tally.
With Seonaid McIntosh winning two fantastic Bronze medals at her second games, Neil Stirton returned to the range 4 days after competing in the Men's 50m Prone event. A veteran of the Games with this being his fourth, he already had three medals to his name but in the Men's 50m Prone event 96 hours earlier he picked up a silver, his first individual medal. On the last day now had the opportunity to go for a second in the Men's 50m 3P Rifle Qualification starting at 09.00 (00.00 GMT) and mirror the success of Seonaid who had medalled in both the 50m Prone and 3P events. The 3P event is split into three sections - kneeling, prone and standing - and in the men's competition each athlete shoots four rounds of 10 shots in each of the three sections with the top 8 at the end going through to the final, scheduled for later in the day. Unlike the Prone event where scores are tight and differences of 0.1 can make a difference, in 3P different athletes excel (or falter) at different sections and so it is not unusual to see athletes climb and fall down the leaderboard depending on their particulars strengths. Neil got off to a solid start in the kneeling section shooting scores of 93, 93, 95 and 96 leaving him with a score of 378-13x placing him in 11th with the prone section coming up. In the prone a great score of 100 to start things off, back up with scores of 98, 97 and 99 meant Neil scored 394, the 5th best score of the section, taking his overall score to 772-35x and moving him up to 8th place but there was little to split 5th-12th and with the best 8 progressing to the final it was going to be tough. In the final section Neil started with scores of 94 and 93 before dropping to 89 but ending on 92 scoring 368 for the standing section taking his final qualification score to 1140-44x. Neil finished ahead of his competitors in a provisional 11th and had an agonising wait to see if it was good enough to make the final. Sadly it wasn't quite enough, staying in 11th once all athletes had completed their rounds so the final wasn't to be for Neil but he could still reflect on a great games and the silver medal he won in the prone competition. Well done Neil.
Away from the drama at the 50m range, events were reaching a climax the third and final day of the Queens Prize Individual Finals, starting at 10.00 (01.00 GMT). After 24 hours rest following four long days of competition (with the Individual competition starting the day after the Pairs event finished), Sandy Walker and Ian Shaw were back in action with Sandy in 14th position on 252-25v and Ian Shaw in 5th on 254-29v after scoring the 3rd best score of Day 2. Sandy was still in contention but Ian was breathing right down the neck of the 4 athletes above him who were on 254-32v (4th and 3rd), 255-32v (2nd) and 255-37v (1st).
On the last day, the athletes compete over the longer distances, firing 25 shots at 900 then 1000 yards, increasing the room for error, testing technique, temperament and the ability of the competitor. Due to the increased distances, the room for error increases and therefore so does the potential to see changes in the final ranking. As the Scotland Pair proved, this is a distance they traditionally enjoy and it was scores at these distances that jumped them up from into that Bronze medal placing so hopes were still high of a medal going into the final day.
First up was the 900 yard section Ian, starting in 5th, put in a very solid display, scoring 74-5v, a score that took his overall to 328-34v which kept him in 5th just behind 4th on 328-38v and 3rd on 328-41v so stayed well in contention for a medal. Sandy also had a really good round scoring 74-9v moving him from 14th up to 12th with a total score of 326-34v. On the final round Sandy scored 73-4v meaning he finished on 399-38v, a great score for his first Commonwealth Games and one that meant he finished in 12th. Ian, who was contesting for the medals, finished strongly with a score of 74-5v which meant he finished the competition with a brilliant score of 402-39v, breaking the Games record set in Glasgow of 401-42v showing the quality of his performance. Sadly, it was not quite enough as Parag Patel of England took the Bronze with 403-45v after a final round of 75-7v, Jim Bailey of Australia had led all the way but dropped to Silver with 403-50v and David Luckman of England won the Gold with a score of 404-49v. All of that meant Ian finished in 4th, agonisingly close to the medals, and all of the top 4 score broke the Games record of 4 years ago (set by Luckman) showing the quality of the competition and how well Ian did to be in contention right until the end. Despite just missing out on a second medal, both athletes have put in an amazing performance and Ian, in his sixth games in particular, a brilliant showing.
So, despite not winning a medal on the final day it is has still been one of the best Games by a Scottish shooting team at the Commonwealth Games for many years winning 6 medals in total with 1 Gold (David McMath - Double Trap), 1 Silver (Neil Stirton - 50m 3P) and 4 Bronze (Linda Pearson - Double Trap, Ian Shaw & Sandy Walker - Queens Prize Pairs, Seonaid McIntosh - 50m 3P & 50m Prone) medals. Angus Loudon, the Chair of Scottish Target Shooting, reflects on his time out at the Gold Coast supporting Team Scotland's shooters:
"As Chair of Scottish Target Shooting it has been a privilege to be at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with our shooting team. Each individual has performed outstandingly well, and the results in medals and placings speak for themselves. We exceeded our target, and every single member of the team should be very proud of what they have achieved. Great credit must also go to our Performance Manager and, during these Games, Team Manager, Donald McIntosh and his coaches and advisors; they prepared our shooters extremely well, and the results are testament to that hard work. I am very proud of everyone involved, and on behalf of all of us involved with shooting in Scotland at all levels, I applaud them."
I would like to echo the words of Angus and say a huge congratulations to all the athletes in the squad, not just those who medalled, for the performances everyone put in on the range and the support you have showed off it. The all important people who also shouldn't be forgotten are the coaches, in particular supporting the athletes at these Games, Donald McIntosh as Team Manager and support for the pistol and rifle athletes, Marco Micheli as Trap & Double Trap coach and Lindsay Peden as Fullbore coach. A huge thanks also needs to go to the family and friends of the athletes who give so much support in every way possible to get the athletes to these games. A few words of recognition should also go to the various athletes on the performance squads who didn't make it to the games but have been part of the culture and wider shooting programme in Scotland, pushing each other on to be better. We would also like to recognise the volunteers back in Scotland who do so much to run the squads, competitions and training sessions that help to keep Scotland producing fantastic athletes in shooting. Unfortunately, as it stands, shooting won't be in Birmingham in 4 years time but I am sure we will see the sport come back to the Commonwealth Games because it offers so much. However, now is not the time to dwell on that but rather enjoy the brilliance from this games and, as such, it is only right the final word must once again go to Scotland's fantastic athletes, especially the medallists - well done, you have all done Scotland proud and all at STS hope it has been an amazing experience for you.
Although we compete in and have a particular fondness for different disciplines, we are one brilliant sport and one great country. Show your support by using the hashtag #TeamSTS
Report by Oliver Barsby, Photos credited to Jeff Holmes & Donald McIntosh