March 1 2015 Latest news:
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
He is England’s most successful sportsman at the Commonwealth Games – and now, sharp shooter Mick Gault is aiming to become the most decorated competitor in the event’s history.
The 17-times Commonwealth Games medallist has now qualified for this year’s event.
It will mean he will be 60 when he takes to the range in Glasgow this summer – 20 years after he first competed in Victoria, Australia.
Scotland will be the RAF Marham worker’s last chance to try to equal the record-holding 18 Commonwealth Games medals of Australian shooter Philip Adams – or break the record by taking home two medals.
With fewer events at his disposal and new scoring rules, it will be no easy task for the Dereham grandfather.
Mr Gault, who was born in Sheffield and raised in Carlisle before his RAF career brought him to Norfolk, retired for a year, but the draw of equalling or bettering that record proved too strong.
The former radar engineer has travelled far and wide, across British shores and Europe, in a bid to hit the magic scores required to qualify for the free and air pistol events.
Ahead of confirmation of the news, Mr Gault said it would be “job done” if he qualified and won that lucrative medal in Glasgow.
“If I can go the Commonwealth Games and I succeed, then that will be job done, sorted – but if I don’t get that medal but know that I had done everything I most possibly could and could not have done anything different then I will be one medal short of that record but at least I tried,” he said.
In recent months, Mr Gault has picked up a clutch of medals and trophies, including a memento shaped as an apple.
He has come up against – and beaten – shooters half his age and has made some tweaks to his training to include power-walking around the streets of Dereham.
His coach, George Darling, from Taverham, also puts him through rigorous training exercises at his 11-metre shooting range in his back garden.
“My training is going in the right direction, if I can improve my average score by one point a month then I will be ready for the Commonwealth Games,” said Mr Gault, who features in the Who’s Who book of influential and noteworthy British people.
The Commonwealth Games ambassador has represented England at five different Games, in Victoria in 1994, Kuala Lumpur in 1998, Manchester in 2002, Sydney in 2006 and Delhi in 2010.
He said his fondest memory was winning his first medal in Victoria.
“I can remember it vividly,” he said.
“Standing on that winning platform for the first time is in the heart – you never get rid of it, that very first time.”
He said each Commonwealth Games had got “bigger and better” and his “most spectacular” medal was in Manchester when he went into the final in fourth place and won it by 0.1 of a point.
“I remember a cameraman coming up to me and saying that was the most exciting piece of sport he had ever seen – but then informing me that the cameras weren’t running,” said Mr Gault, who was missed out of the Great Britain 2012 Olympics squad for an “inexplicable reason”.
“They are trying to make shooting more spectator-friendly, that’s why they have change the scoring system, to make the finals more exciting for viewers.”
It has taken Mr Gault a bit of time to adjust to the new “Olympic-style” final, designed to make the sport more exciting.
And he admits that he gets a bit “over-excited”.
The new scoring system sees all competitions start from zero in the finals, rather than taking their qualifying scores with them. It is then a succession of quick-fire rounds until there are just two men left standing.
“The one who shoots the highest number of points wins.
“I got bronze at the British champs for air pistol – I got over-excited, my heart went and my trigger went and I shot in the wrong place,” he said.
Mr Gault said the plan was to do as many international events as possible – and what funding allows – to get used to the new system.
Meanwhile, away from shooting, life has not been without its difficulties.
It was a tough time at work which re-focused Mr Gault’s goals and made him decide to have another shot at Commonwealth victory.
His wife of nearly 40 years, Janet, has Parkinson’s Disease, and his mum, Elizabeth, is receiving treatment for lung cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
“What is most important to me is my family and my sport, in that order,” said Mr Gault, who has two daughters Paula and Clare, a son, Robin, and four grandchildren.
“I turn 60 next month and returning to the sport is a gamble but I’ve got this goal of one more medal.”