Gunning for glory

Veteran Dereham marksman Mick Gault has been handed a final shot at crowning his glittering career with a first-ever Olympic appearance next summer.

The 57-year-old pistol shooter is England's most successful Commonwealth Games competitor with 17 medals, including nine golds.

But despite being the nation's number one for more than 20 years, he has never had the opportunity to compete on the biggest sporting stage of all.

The Olympic quota system allocates limited places, which must be earned by each national shooting federation at selected championships – meaning the best shooters from any specific country are never guaranteed a place.

The man dubbed 'Gault Finger' has won medals at these World Cup contests in the past, but has always been unfortunate in finishing behind a rival in need of one of the few quota berths.

But as 2012 host nation, Team GB has been granted three automatic quota places, one of which Gault could claim by making a qualifying score at the European Cartridge Championship in Belgrade on August 6.

The Norfolk star said he was thrilled to get an unexpected opportunity to finally set his sights on Olympic glory.

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'I am trying to not get too excited,' he said. 'It is not in my nature.

'But I am 57 now and the opportunity is there. If I don't grab it with both hands I will know for the rest of my life that I had a chance and never took it.'

Gault retired from shooting after last year's Commonwealth Games in Delhi, when he notched up two medals, leaving his tally just one short of equalling Australian shooter Phillip Adams' overall record total of 18.

But he was tempted back into international competition about a month ago when he was told at a Team England training session that he had achieved the qualifying score for Belgrade – and that a quota place was on the table.

'Up until about a month ago I didn't have any Olympic ambitions, as the quota system had spoiled it for me,' he said.

'I have always had the qualifying scores, but there are not many quota places available and it is extremely difficult to win one – it is just for the fortunate few.

'But the fact that we are the host nation means we don't have to win a place – they have given us a freebie. All I have got to do is perform well.'

To gain an Olympic berth in London, Gault does not need to win the Belgrade championship, but must reach a GB qualifying score which he says he has already achieved in training.

Gault, who works as a civil servant at RAF Marham, has been given a �500 grant from Breckland Council's Gifted and Talented Fund and a �300 Pride in Breckland grant in order to compete in Serbia.

If successful in his Olympic bid, he would need to raise another �3,000 of sponsorship to turn semi-professional and cover his training and competitions.

Lynda Turner, Breckland Council's executive member for community, said: 'Breckland is privileged to be able to assist Mr Gault in moving one step closer to achieving a lifelong ambition.'

In Belgrade, Gault will compete in the Free Pistol discipline, aiming a .22 calibre pistol at a bulls-eye the size of a 10p coin, from a distance of 50 metres.

Anyone wanting to sponsor Gault can contact him via the Dereham Times office on 01362 854705.