'Cool and laid-back' Sally Johnston on target against all odds

HOT SHOT: Sally Johnston kept her cool to win the women's 50m prone rifle gold medal in Carnoustie today.
HOT SHOT: Sally Johnston kept her cool to win the women's 50m prone rifle gold medal in Carnoustie today.

Dumped by her coach on the eve of the Games, Southlander Sally Johnston had the perfect answer - a gold medal.

The 44-year-old, originally from Invercargill but who now lives in Hutt Valley, won the 50m prone rifle event yesterday in Carnoustie, 16 years after she won a bronze in the same event in Kuala Lumpur. And just a couple of months since former NZ Shooting Federation coach Jock Allen ended their coach-pupil relationship.

Johnston did not want to say why the partnership broke down but admitted being "pretty upset" when it happened.

Allen is in Scotland with the New Zealand team and still coaches fellow southern shooter Jenna Mackenzie, who finished 14th in yesterday's final.

"You could say I'm between coaches at the moment," Johnston said, proudly wearing her medal.

The shooter, who team-mates say is "so cool and laid back", also had to battle with equipment problems - her ammunition and bolts went missing on her flight to Scotland.

The bolt is matched to each gun and Johnston had to shoot with replacement gear - a move others said could be the type of blow to knock someone out of medal contention.

But she took it all in her stride.

"At the end of the day, if you just wind yourself up over stuff you can't control, it doesn't help the shooting; you just have to roll with it. You have to be a little bit optimistic that people will do what they can to help, you'll find a solution and it will all work out on the day."

It did, to the tune of New Zealand's seventh gold medal of the Glasgow Games.

Her parents, Ken and Jenny Johnston, appear to be good luck charms; the two times they've seen their daughter compete at the Commonwealth Games, they've seen her win a medal.

"We deliberately don't come into the room early," Jenny said. "We don't want her to see us in case it breaks her concentration."

Jenny was hopeful rather than confident her daughter would win a medal. You don't dare think of a medal, but it's back there, you're hoping."

Ken was more bullish.

"Yep, I knew she would," he said. "Because Sally is so positive when she's in the right frame of mind she locks in and she just does it."

The sport is in her blood. Both parents shoot and they took over coaching the Southland Girls' High School shooting programme which Johnston started before her job as manager of the Ministry for Primary Industries' food science team took her to the capital.

Johnston and Mackenzie were expected to last night compete in the women's 3x40, the three-position event. Fairfax NZ

The Southland Times