Punching above our weight

GOLDEN CHARGE: Tom Scully high fives Aaron Gate.
GOLDEN CHARGE: Tom Scully high fives Aaron Gate.

Southland's golden touch has our province sitting alongside Wales, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore in the gold medal count at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

As of 5pm yesterday, New Zealand had eight gold medals.

Of those, three have come from southern athletes - cyclists Eddie Dawkins and Tom Scully, and shooter Sally Johnston.

Regional leaders are putting the success down to the southern values of hard work, dedication and commitment, traits yesterday's latest gold medal winner, Johnston, demonstrated in spades, those who know her said.

The 44-year-old won the 50m prone rifle event yesterday in Carnoustie.

Collegiate Target Rifle Club member Earnie Herman, who has known Johnston since she started shooting as a youngster, said he was not surprised she had done so well and her success was thanks to her hard work and commitment.

"I think it's something she cultivated. She had the will to succeed.

"Her parents were able to bring that out in her," he said.

She was a "totally, totally unflappable" shooter, he said.

Target Shooting New Zealand executive member Robbie Gilchrist, who is based in Invercargill, said he was thrilled with Johnston's success.

"There's an awful lot of people down here that are very pleased for her," he said.

The region should be extremely proud of its sporting prowess, he said, a sentiment shared by Target Shooting Southland regional co-ordinator Estelle Andrews.

"I think it's fantastic", she said of Johnston's and the region's success.

Southland Girls' High School principal Yvonne Browning said the school was immensely proud of the former student.

Johnston attended the school from 1984 until 1988, during which time she was heavily involved with the smallbore rifle shooting team.

Johnston was captain of the team in 1988 and also achieved a Duke of Edinburgh bronze for her prowess with an air rifle.

She was also involved in choir, gymnastics, music, and helped with other sporting activities such as swimming, showing she was a true all-rounder and someone to be looked up to and admired, Browning said.

While the strength of the school's shooting team "waxes and wanes", it was possible Johnston's success could impact on the popularity of the sport, in a similar fashion to southern rowers, she said.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said the region should stand behind its athletes and celebrate their success.

"It's great, it's fantastic what's happening over there."

While unsure why the region was punching so far above its weight at the games, the Southland traits of hard work and dedication were likely to have played a large part, he said.

"I am absolutely proud of the athletes and the coaches." The success showed not only the quality of the athletes and their coaches and support teams, but also the venues and facilities they were training in.

The Southland Times