Dereham urged to get behind its home-town heroes in the Commonwealth Games: Mick Gault, Chris Baker and Will Smith
PUBLISHED: 13:02 25 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:02 25 July 2014
As the Commonwealth Games get under way, the Times is urging its readers to roar on their home-town heroes - with one Dereham competitor in with a chance of making sporting history.
Three athletes from the town will be thrown into the global spotlight during the next 10 days, as England takes on Commonwealth countries from across the world in the competition which was officially opened in Glasgow last night by the Queen.
Among them will be high jumper Chris Baker and wheelchair racer Will Smith – making their Games debuts – and veteran Toftwood marksman Mick Gault.
Mr Gault is already England’s most decorated sportsman with 17 Commonwealth medals to his name, including nine golds, and is just one behind record holder, Australian shooter Philip Adams.
He came out of retirement to have one more shot at the record – and will be setting his sights on free pistol and air pistol glory at his sixth Commonwealth Games.
The grandfather-of-four, who turned 60 in May this year, admitted to feeling “a little nervous” but said the excitement will come when he is standing on the firing point.
He said: “It’s all go. My guns are ready, I’m ready and we will see what happens – I’m sure I’ve got the whole of Dereham behind me and that helps.”
Mr Gault, whose wife of 40 years, Janet, two daughters Clare and Paula, son-in-law Nick, and two of his grandchildren will be cheering him on, added: “It’s a privilege to be here. I’ve done all the hard work getting here. My efforts have been appreciated by being selected for the team – it’s not easy to be selected.
“I’ve got to perform on the firing point on the day. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Commonwealth Games ambassador has represented England at five different Games, in Victoria in 1994, Kuala Lumpar in 1998, Manchester in 2002, Sydney in 2006 and Delhi in 2010.
Mr Gault, who works at RAF Marham, has been in Scotland’s largest city since July 14 and will take to the shooting range on Saturday for the 10m air pistol competition – 20 years after his first ever Commonwealth Games.
He will then return to the firing point at Barry Buddon Shooting Centre, close to Dundee, on Monday for the 50m free pistol showdown.
“I’m going to do the best that I can possible do and if that’s good enough that’s great but if not, I will have done my best and that’s great too,” he said.
“I want to perform extremely well and walk off the firing point thinking I couldn’t have done anymore.
“I might walk off after shooting a personal best and that might not be good enough. The competition here is looking very strong.”
The father-of-three said once the competition is over and he heads back home to Toftwood on Tuesday, he will put his guns away and not look at them again for “several months”.
The Sheffield-born shooter said he will then relax and take a holiday with his wife.
Meanwhile, former Dereham Northgate High School pupil Chris Baker is hoping to build on his breakthrough season which has seen him recently make his Team GB debut at the European Team Championships and compete at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in London.
The 23-year-old, who started his athletics career with Dereham Runners, leads the British high jump rankings this season and has had a good run of preparations leading up to the Glasgow 2014 Games.
Dereham sports fans’ eyes will also be on Hampden Park as they look out for Westfield wheelchair racer Will Smith as he competes at the 1,500m T54 event.
Glasgow will be the 18-year-old Dereham Sixth Form College pupil’s most important chance yet at competing in the same event as his mentor and Team GB Paralympic legend David Weir.
Who’s competing when?
Saturday July 26
Mick Gault, 8.45am-6pm. 10m air pistol qualifier and final
Monday July 28
Chris Baker, 10am-1pm, high jump preliminary round (final is 7pm-10pm same day)
Mick Gault, 8.30am-6.30pm, 50m pistol qualifiers and final
Tuesday July 29
Will Smith, 10am-1.15pm, T54 1,500m round one (final is 7pm-10.30pm on July 31)