Northern Ireland struck gold with their first shooting medal of the 2002 Commonwealth Games at Bisley yesterday. The Belfast-born RAF pilot, wing commander David Calvert, and his partner Martin Millar were jubiliant after they won the full bore rifle pairs.
It was 51-year-old Calvert's sixth medal – he has claimed three gold and three bronze – in seven Commonwealth Games spanning 24 years and he has more targets to aim at.
"I'd like to do three more and then I'll have taken part in half the Commonwealth Games ever held," he said.
The Northern Ireland pair moved up from second at the halfway stage after the short-distance shot to overhaul the English overnight leaders Glyn Barnett and Jane Messer, who had to be content with bronze as the South Africans Peter Bramley and David Dodds moved past them to claim silver.
"We were content with our overnight position. It is generally decided on the longer ranges," said Calvert.
Millar, 42, from Conber, North Down, added: "It was a bit tricky because of the wind but it's thrilling that we put Northern Ireland on the medal chart and it's even better that it's a gold."
England won gold in the final event of the day as Mike Babb and Neil Day achieved an impressive victory in the men's 50-metre rifle prone pairs.
The winning margin of 1189 to 1180 over the silver medallists South Africa was comfortable in the end but not before Day, a 37-year-old engineer from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, overcame a personal crisis in the fifth set of 10 shots.
He began with two hundreds but dropped to 94 in the penultimate round before regrouping to fire a perfect hundred.
Babb's Bisley range record score of 598 – two 99s followed by four unblemished hundreds – meant that Day had to suffer an absolute disaster for gold to slip away but he said: "I didn't know that.
"At one point my heartbeat was right up and I was having trouble with my steady aim but I pulled myself together."
Babb, the 38-year-old British record holder from Farnborough, who has two perfect 600 scores to his name, said: "Neil showed a lot of character.
"Shooting 94 in a match like this, it is very easy to start throwing the toys out of the pram so he did very well to come back from that.
"Regardless of the score I've done today, it was never easy. On this range if you make a mistake you get punished."
The other two English bronze medals came from the Sydney Olympic individual gold medallist Richard Faulds and John Bellamy, who were disappointed with third in the double-trap pairs, and women's 10m air rifle pair Louise Minett and Victoria Eaton.
Faulds said: "We were hoping for more. Being so close is very frustrating." Bellamy reflected: "I was disappointed I missed three targets right at the end." Minett and Eaton, however, had no complaints. "We both shot well, a bronze medal is always good," said 27-year-old Minett of Fareham, Hampshire.
Thirty-year-old Eaton, from Stoke-on-Trent, only returned earlier this year after a year out with a back injury suffered in a car accident and she had further problems when her trigger broke in practice last Monday.
"I had to get used to my gun again after the repair and didn't have much time so I'm pleased in the end," she said.
England now have two gold, two silver and four bronze medals after the shooting's opening two days but India took three more golds today to bring their tally to four gold and two silver.
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