Peter Tait Australia’s only Sydney 2000 Paralympic medallist
By Greg Campbell
Australia’s Shooting Team arrived at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games fielding its largest ever squad of 11 athletes and with high hopes to press for medal honours.
Four athletes, Libby Kosmala, Ashley Adams, James Nomarhas and Peter Worsley, were backing up after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games where Nomarhas secured the team’s sole medal, a silver in the Mixed Sports Pistol SH1 event.
But it was Games debutant, Peter Tait from Ballarat, who upstaged his team-mates to win Australia’s only Shooting medal when capturing silver in the Mixed Sports Pistol SH1 final.
Tait, a left arm amputee and a member of Ballarat Pistol Club, enjoyed a strong reputation as one of the districts best pistol athletes.
He was also in eye-catching form in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.
At the 1998 IPC World Shooting Championships in Spain, Tait finished 11th in the Sports Pistol, 17th in the Men’s Air Pistol, and 30th in the Free Pistol event.
But together with Nomarhas and Steven Guy, they snared the gold medal in the Teams Sports Pistol.
At the 1999 FESPIC Games in Beijing, Tait won the silver medal with team members Guy and Simon McGrath in Team Air Pistol Men SH1 event and was placed sixth in the Air Pistol Men SH1.
His build-up to the Sydney Paralympics continued at the 1999 Deutsche Meistereschaft Sportschiessen in Munich where he won the gold medal in Sport Pistol, finished ninth in Free Pistol and 10th in Air Pistol.
Then at the 1999 Oceania Championships at the Sydney International Shooting Centre, Tait won the silver medal in Sport Pistol, was placed seventh in Air Pistol and 14th in Free Pistol.
At the Sydney Paralympics, Tait maintained his impressive form when qualifying second for the final after registering a score of 568 to upstage his team-mates Nomarhas (557 points, 10th) and Jeff Lane (555 points, 11th).
China’s Wei Huang dominated qualification with a score of 573 and was a raging gold medal favourite.
And Huang didn’t disappoint in the final securing the gold medal with 669.6 while Tait and Russia’s Andrey Lebedinsky, the defending Paralympic gold medallist from the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, tussled for the minor medals.
With home crowd support, Tait (664.7 points) held his nerve and prevailed over Lebedinsky (664.4) to snare the silver medal by a mere 0.3 points.
In addition to having his name etched into Australian Paralympic history, Tait’s medal winning performance was hailed when he was one of five Paralympians to be honoured in a new monument dedicated to Ballarat Paralympians which was unveiled at Lake Wendouree in 2018.
Apart from Tait, the Paralympic Walk recognised Ballarat Paralympic locals, wheelchair racer Greg Smith, wheelchair rugby player Brad Dubberley, wheelchair basketballer Sandy Blyth and vision-impaired field athlete Jodi Willis-Roberts.