Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland star Calvert hit hard as Birmingham axe shooting from 2022 Commonwealth Games

 

By David Kelly

Legend David Calvert fears he may never be able to compete again at the pinnacle of his sport after 2022 Commonwealth Games hosts Birmingham axed shooting from the sporting showpiece.

Calvert, a Commonwealth gold and bronze medallist, will again lead the charge for Northern Ireland shooting glory at the Games next month on the Gold Coast as the fight goes on to see the sport re-established by Birmingham.

The strength of feeling is such that the issue was addressed in the House of Parliament last night, having been brought to the fore by DUP MP Jim Shannon.

Calvert, 67 this Saturday, is currently preparing for his 11th Games with Fullbore Pairs partner Jack Alexander (25) at the South African Championships, believing they are better prepared than four years ago when just finishing out of the medals. But it is the future of the sport that he is equally concerned about.

Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, Calvert said: "The fact that Birmingham are not going to have shooting is a real shame. It goes against the whole ethos of the Commonwealth Games which is known as the Friendly Games - there are a lot of smaller countries for whom shooting is one of the major sports.

"If it doesn't happen in Birmingham I would very much hope that it would get back in again because it is such an important incentive for our athletes for whom this is the pinnacle of competition - especially when it comes to Fullbore because it is not in the Olympics, it's very much a Commonwealth sport.

"This could be my last Games if they go ahead and keep it out of the Birmingham Games because once a sport is out then it is very hard to get back in."

Just why Birmingham have decided to axe shooting is open to debate. Initially, the 2022 Games were to be staged in Durban but due to the political upheaval in South Africa, Birmingham stepped in with a bid that did not include shooting.

Calvert added: "They have made the point that Bisley, the national centre for shooting, is too far away but that doesn't add up because when Manchester held the Games in 2002 that's where they staged all the shooting and it was fine. They are also hosting the cycling in the velodrome in London so clearly there are other reasons for the decision.

"Maybe it has more to do with commercial decisions, with those organising it believing they can get more sponsorship through having more athletes competing in other sports. It's just very disappointing but we can't give up hope that they will think again and bring shooting back into the Games."

Northern Ireland's shooting team manager Gary Alexander is equally concerned that if Birmingham's decision is not reversed then the country's long tradition of competing on the Commonwealth stage will be lost forever.

"I think it would be sickening if shooting was no longer in the Games when you consider that the UK has some of the most famous rifle ranges in the world," said Alexander.

"It would be very bad for shooting as a whole but particularly Fullbore shooting as it has not been in the Olympics for the past 60 years. It's not easy to build 1,000-yard areas for the event and for everyone involved in shooting the Games means so much.

"Usually, every country in the Commonwealth Federation has a vote on what events are in the Games and that has safeguarded shooting but because Birmingham came in at short notice due to Durban having to withdraw it seems they were able to ignore voting when the smaller countries always vote for shooting."

Belfast Telegraph

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