Veteran shooter Mick Gault admitted today that there were circumstances which would have meant him dropping out of what will be his fifth and final Commonwealth Games: “Death,” he said with a wry grin. “Or maybe a broken limb...”
The 56-year-old has more reason than most for competing here, given that, as the winner of 15 Commonwealth medals already, he needs only four more to break the record for individual medals in the 80-year-old history of the Games. Which is why he was entirely resistant to the suggestion, floated a week ago, that England might pull out of the event because of dissatisfaction with the conditions.
“It looked bad to start with but it would have been pretty disappointing,” he added. “I convinced myself that it would never happen. It was never going to be a non-event. But I would never have considered pulling out. I have worked for this for four years.”
Gault, a civil servant who tests equipment at RAF Marham in Norfolk, may have to wait until the second last day of the Games to discover if he can pass the record of 18 Commonwealth medals reached in 2002 by Phillip Adams of Australia, a total that contained seven golds.
Gault’s total so far, begun at the 1994 Games in Victoria, contains nine golds, and he is “quietly confident” that more medals are within his grasp here, although he is swift to number those nations he regards as rivals.
“India. Canada. Australia. New Zealand. Can you think of any more?” he asked. “Everybody, everybody. It depends on how you perform. I could shoot 599, which would be a world record, and someone else could still shoot 600. But If I perform to my expectations then I can bring home some medals.”
He is well aware of the fervent environment he is about to compete in given how India has dominated Commonwealth shooting in recent years.
“I’m expecting it to be manic,” he said. “If not, it will be a first. The Indians are really, really hot on shooting.”
The etiquette of spectating at a shooting event has changed in recent years, he believes, with people becoming more willing to make a noise during competition. “If an Indian makes a good shot in a final here, I know that I can expect some noise when I am shooting.
“Unlike athletes who run around in track and field, adrenaline is my enemy. The heart is pounding, and the adrenaline starts to pump. You just have to block that out.
“The last time I heard a racket was at the 2002 Games in Manchester when I went from fourth to first with my last shot in the air pistol. The pressure I felt as a home shooter was tremendous. With a bit of luck that will go against the Indian shooters here.”
But however his competitions turn out, Gault is resigned to the fact that this will be his last hurrah.
“I am mentally strong and fitter than I have ever been,” he said. “But that’s it anyway. I’m 56. If you add four years to that you reach the magic 60. I think it’s time to call it a day.”
And reaching that target, he admits, would be “a nice way to finish.”