NZ shooters have proud tradition to uphold

ON TARGET: Southlander Jenna MacKenzie, 21, will become the first New Zealander to shoot in three smallbore events at a Commonwealth Games.
ON TARGET: Southlander Jenna MacKenzie, 21, will become the first New Zealander to shoot in three smallbore events at a Commonwealth Games.

An eclectic bunch, ranging from a 21-year-old Southlander to a 50-year-old first-timer from Manawatu, will take aim to continue New Zealand's remarkable run of Commonwealth Games shooting gold medals in the next fortnight.

Kiwi marksmen, and women, returned with gold from every games in the past 40 years, stretching back to Maurice Gordon in the fullbore rifle grade at Christchurch in 1974.

Four years ago at Delhi, the men's fullbore pair of Mike Collings and John Snowden were the latest to hear the strains of God Defend New Zealand at the range, and will defend their title at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre at Carnoustie.

They're among a team of nine which won't feature the name Greg Yelavich for the first time since 1982. Pistol shooter Yelavich's 12 medals - including a silver in Delhi - are the most by a New Zealander in any sport, but he scaled down his top-level commitments and wasn't considered for selection to return to the country where he won double gold in Edinburgh 28 years ago.

Shooting is New Zealand's fourth-most medalled Commonwealth Games sport with 51, behind only athletics, cycling and swimming, so has a proud tradition to uphold.

Collings, a fitter by trade, believed all nine shooters earned their stripes via a challenging qualification process where 22 countries progress.

''It is much tougher than getting to the world championships,'' he said. In contrast to many of their overseas professional rivals, the New Zealanders are all amateurs, and the NZ Olympic Committee required a potential top-six finish among their criteria.

''Training is a challenge with work commitments but this is a pinnacle event for us and we're aiming for a medal,'' said Collings when the team was announced. He and Snowden will contest the fullbore open singles and pairs, in which they beat Scots Angus McLeod and Ian Shaw to gold at Delhi.

Pistol shooter Ricky Zhao, Southlander Jenna MacKenzie and Manawatu's Martin Hunt are the Commonwealth Games debutants.

Mossburn smallbore club member MacKenzie, 21, will become the first New Zealander to compete across three smallbore rifle events, the 10m, the prone and the three positions.

Palmerston North scientist Hunt, 50, had the toughest qualifying route when he beat Hutt Valley's Lindsay Arthur in a tiebreak shoot-off at Trentham in February. Hunt will compete alongside Levin's Ryan Taylor in the men's 50m rifle prone.

Taylor and Timaru's Natalie Rooney (women's trap) will both compete after the London Olympics furore, when Rooney was initially selected in New Zealand's one quota spot before Taylor successfully appealed to the Sports Tribunal. Taylor went in Rooney's place after it was found incorrect information about his qualifying scores was forwarded to the NZOC. It will be Taylor's third Commonwealth Games.

Two other shooters, clay target men Scott Wilson and Paul Wilson, lost their appeals to the Sports Tribunal over their non-selection for Glasgow.


Best gold medal hope: Fullbore pair Mike Collings and John Snowden, who also contest the singles. While it's difficult to line up the form, four years on, the Delhi gold medallists have to be in the mix again. Another victory would see them join Kiwis Greg Yelavich, Stephen Petterson, Roger Harvey and John Woolley as multiple shooting gold medallists.

Best outside medal chance: Jenna MacKenzie. On numbers, the 21-year-old from Southland's Mossburn club has a good hope as she contests three smallbore disciplines, the first New Zealander to do so.

Schedule: July 25-30.

Venue: Barry Buddon Shooting Centre, Carnoustie.

NZ's medal history: 51 (14 gold, 16 silver, 21 bronze).

Did you know?: The shooting is at the Games' most far-flung venue, around two hours from Glasgow at Carnoustie, near its championship golf links. The Barry Buddon range is a Ministry of Defence training area.

The Dominion Post