Inside Lines: Pistols at dawn as Britain’s top gun misses Olympic target


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The Independent Online

Britain's top marksman, Mick Gault, who came out of retirement to take a pot shot at an Olympic place this summer, looks likely to miss his target on a technicality, despite the concern of the former sports minister, Kate Hoey, who is president of British Shooting.

Record-breaker Gault, 58, awarded the OBE after becoming the nation's most prolific Commonwealth Games competitor in any sport – 17 medals including nine golds – achieved a qualifying score for the free pistol but has now been told that the only host nation quota place available is for the air pistol, for which he does not have the required mark. Yet, as he points out, the irony is that should he be selected for Team GB, under Olympic rules he would be permitted to shoot in both categories.

Even though Hoey, one of his greatest admirers, has made representations on his behalf, British Shooting will be sending only one pistol shooter to London, 27-year-old Georgina Geikie, a part-time Devon barmaid who is known as Britain's Lara Croft for her prowess with the 25 metres sport target pistol. Says Gault, a civil servant with the RAF in Norfolk: ''I am disappointed and gobsmacked that we apparently are returning several host nation places, which seems a shame for myself and other British shooters.''

British Shooting say: ''This is nothing personal. We don't have a home quota place in free pistol, only air pistol. As no one has achieved a qualifying mark in that event we have asked the British Olympic Association if we can change that place for one in a discipline where we have achieved it, like rifle or trap shooting. It seems only fair to allow someone who has the qualifying criteria to compete.''

Shame though, that someone of Gault's calibre has to bite the bullet.

Boxing takes another hit

While Dereck Chisora ponders an appeal against having his licence lifted indefinitely by the Boxing Board, the sport also reflects on another grim week. Following the Chisora disciplinary hearing it was revealed that his promotional stablemate George Groves, the British super-middleweight champion, had received death threats after withdrawing from a title defence at Wembley on Friday with Scottish challenger Kenny Anderson.

Groves, who claimed a back injury, was apparently warned he could be shot before or during his next fight, threats the police said they were taking ''seriously''. The unbeaten Groves, 23, who won the title from his former amateur rival James DeGale, had previously defeated Anderson in 2010.

Groves has confirmed he is next in line for a world title fight against the WBO champion Robert Stieglitz after being made mandatory challenger to the German, news which has angered Anderson: ''He is obviously scared to fight me and if he doesn't the Board should take the title off him," he says. ''This has made a mockery of the sport and something sinister is going on in the background.''

On top of all this the Croydon coroner Dr Roy Palmer says he is writing to the Board to make recommendations following the open verdict returned on the inquest on 27-year-old Darren Sutherland, the Irish boxer who turned pro after winning an Olympic bronze medal in Beijing but was found hanged at his Kent home in 2009. He wants greater support mechanisms for boxers in the early stages of their professional careers "so that a tragedy of this kind could be averted in the future".

Man in the hat trick

On a thankfully lighter note, Amir Khan, who attempts to regain his world light-welterweight titles against Lamont Peterson in Las Vegas on 9 May, has not seen the last of the infamous Man in the Hat.

Mustafa Ameen, the scorecard-checking interloper whose ringside presence in Washington caused such controversy, will be hobnobbing with the Khan clan in Bolton this summer when the US Olympic boxers use the family-owned gym as their pre-Games training base. Ameen, complete with titfer, will be there with the heavyweight Michael Hunter, whom he represents. "No problem", says Amir's father, Shah. "That's all water under the bridge now." Or under the hat.