Shooting often goes unmentioned in the British media and for good reason. Peter Wilson’s Olympic gold was a rare victory for Great Britain in a sport we usually fail to make the finals in. That’s why Team GB’s young shooters deserve a lot more after their outstanding performance in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
I don’t usually cover junior sport but this multi-sport event, taking place over five days, is kind of a big deal. It’s not the “Youth Olympic Games”, but the AYOF is a biennial gala allowing competitors aged 12 to 20 gain vital experience in their field. The entry list is substantially reduced too, with some of the countries (namely the “Combined Oceania” team) clubbing up to even the score. Even so, Team GB have sent a large contingent led by Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith, plus USA and China are also present.
So to shooting, an event barely mentioned in British Olympic news coverage. This week’s turn of events may lead to a change in attitudes at Rio 2016 as three competitors grabbed themselves medals. No golds as of yet, but silvers for Coral Kennerley and Michael Bamsey, plus a bronze for Larissa Sykes is pretty good going for the first two days of competition.
Kennerley kicked off the festival in style and narrowly missed out on gold in the women’s 10m Air Pistol, finishing just 1.3 points away from winner Jiaying Chen of China. Jessica Liddon also qualified for the final in eighth place, a safe seven points ahead of ninth, but that was where she finished in the final. Later, Sykes scored 645.2 in the 50m Rifle – 3 Positions event to finish third in a seven woman field. That was an improvement on qualification in which she shared third with Malaysia’s Aina Zahiran.
Michael Bamsey was the final medallist of the day, shooting 1243.4 points in the men’s version of the 50m Rifle – 3 Positions but couldn’t keep up with the ruthless Chinese Haoran Yang. Silver is a good result, though and, as he puts it, “The main thing I get out of it is the experience because there are not many people who get that experience and it really helps you deal with it.”
Such an experience is what these youngsters should take out of the Youth Olympic Festival. Medals are nice, but the likes of Jessica Liddon and Kristian Callaghan, who finished sixth in the 10m Air Pistol final, shouldn’t be disheartened by missing out. Just being there is a start and they’ll really know how it feels to be in an Olympic village and participate against the world’s best (in their age group). Who knows, their next such experience might be in Brazil come 2016.