NSW’s James Willett prevented a double raid by international shooting athletes in the National trap finals when he overcame a poor qualification score to capture victory at the Newcastle Lake Macquarie Clay Target Club today.
Willett was the lowest ranked finalist but emerged victorious when scoring 45/50 to defeat Italy’s Angelo Scalzone (44/50) with NSW’s Thomas Grice (34/40) taking the bronze.
Earlier, New Zealand’s Natalie Rooney (39/50) also climbed from qualifying sixth to win the women’s trap final with Victorians Laetisha Scanlan (35/50) and Alexis Preston (27/40) the other placegetters.
Willett said he erred by wearing a darker pair of glasses when shooting 45/50 in the second qualifying round in the morning.
“I chose the wrong pair of glasses for the conditions and it was a bad round for me. I had to keep myself in front with the big number six qualifying number on my back,” said Willett.
“It’s one of the hardest venues to shoot at and I think the scores during the week reflected the difficulty,” he added.
Willett (242 points) has opened a four point lead in the race for Tokyo Olympic Games selection over Grice (238) with Victoria’s Mitch Iles (234) in third position.
Rooney was beaten by Australia’s Catherine Skinner in the gold medal shoot-off to at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and was then placed seventh behind Scanlan at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
But today Rooney overcame the light rain and dim light conditions to finally upstage her Trans-Tasman rivals.
Victoria’s Penny Smith shot another exceptional qualifying score of 115/125 but was unable to re-produce that form in the final where she was placed fourth.
Smith performed outstandingly in qualifying for the Commonwealth title earlier in the week and leads the race for Tokyo Olympic Games selection with 239 points, ahead of Scanlan (231) and Skinner (223).
Smith said the varying weather conditions this week made shooting difficult.
“It was a tough week all round. There were trying hot condition at the beginning of the week, torrential rain yesterday and misty rain today. But you got to do the best you can,” said Smith.
“But it’s been a good week for me. I definitely shot better in qualifying events than in the finals.
“I didn’t finish the week with any blue sashes or gold medals, but I was really happy to have qualifying scores of 116 and 115,” she added.
Smith said Rooney’s victory will give the Kiwi a boost ahead of the Tokyo Games.
“Nat is a great athlete but has struggled in recent times. But it was great to see her bounce back in her journey towards the Olympics and congratulations to her on her win today,” said Smith.
To win selection for the Tokyo Olympics, the three best scores from four selection events by athletes who have previously registered Minimum Quota Scores (MQS) will be considered.
Australia has two Olympic quota positions in men’s and women’s trap. The next Olympic trap and skeet selection event starts on February 27 at the Melbourne Gun Club.
Greg Campbell – PRISM Strategics Communications