We are now in the Olympic Year and, so far as the shooting sports are concerned, which countries will be competing in London and how many quota places they have has mostly been decided. Winning a quota place in one of the ISSF designated events does not guarantee you will have a place in your National Team however – the Olympic selection committee may not put anyone forward to fill the quota places if the standard isn’t high enough.
There are still some painful decisions to be made by some of the team managers who have the luxury of not only having two quota places, but highly qualified alternatives to those shooters who’ve actually won them. I will start off this month with a roundup of hopefuls in the men’s Trap event.
Starting with Australia, the quota place winners are – Michael Diamond, two times Olympic Trap Champion in ’96 and 2000 and a four times World Champion with over 30 other medals won at the highest level. His selection is a no brainer, but what about Matthew Stokes, the 23 year old man from nowhere who it would appear has competed in only one ISSF world event and also won a quota place? The Australians other option is Adam Vella, a 41 year old who has won 13 medals in World Cup events including five Gold and two Gold and Silver in World Cup finals.
Italy is the strongest Trap shooting nation in the world by a considerable margin. Their first quota place was won by Giovanni Pellielo with already two Olympic Silver Medals and a Bronze. He is also a three times World Champion with seven Gold Medals in World Cup finals and many more besides in World Cup shoots. The second was won by Rodolfo Vigano, undoubtedly talented, but at 41 years old his medal haul is
meagre by Italy’s high standards, and amounts to a Silver as a Junior in a World Championship, two Bronze in European Championships, one as a Junior and seven medals in World Cups including two Gold. The other obvious option for manager Albano Pera is Massimo Fabbrizi who won the World Olympic Trap Championship for a second time in 2011. He was a two time European Champion as a Junior and has also amassed two Gold and two Silver Medals in World Cup events, and a Silver and a Bronze in World Cup finals. I think we can safely predict Albano will give Pellielo, one of Trap shooti
ng all time greats, another chance to win the only prize that has eluded him throughout his glittering career. As for the worthy Vigano his place will be taken by Fabbrizi and rightly so.
Former Olympic Champions don’t always have the opportunity to defend their title and early in 2011 it looked as though David Kostelecky, the Gold Medallist at Beijing, might be one of them. A Silver Medal in both the European and World Championships late in the season, while not providing a quota place, must give the Czech selectors something to think about in spite of Kostelecky’s Teammates Gach and Liptak both winning quota places. Gach’s favourite medal colour appears to be Bronze, he won one in the 1995 World Championships and the 43 year old has won three others in World Cups including the one in Beijing last year that earned him the quota place. Coincidentally Liptak also favours Bronze, third place in the 2010 Championships in Munich won him his quota place for London, two other medals of the same colour as a Junior in European Championships comprise his total medal haul. Importantly for the selector’s consideration, Kostelecky seems to be able to strike Gold when he really needs it – as a Junior World Champion in 1995, which undoubtedly boosted his career, and the one that glistens most for his great win in the Beijing Games. I think then we can safely assume we will see the reigning Olympic Champion competing in London up against the current World Champion Massimo Fabbrizi of Italy.
Close scrutiny of the 26 qualifiers, there are still four places to be won, suggests that the outcome of the Men’s Trap event in the ‘12 Olympics is, as usual, very difficult to predict. The three stand out performers that have qualified for London 2012 are Michael Diamond, Giovanni Pellielo and Russia’s Alexey Alipov who has 34 medals including one Olympic Gold and two Gold in European Championships. The reigning Olympic Champion David Kostelecky has 14 medals including a Gold for a European Championship.
Regarding Junior World Champions, we have four other quota place winners who have won that title. Oguzham Tuzun of Turkey, two times winner Erik Varga of Slovakia, Giovanni Cernogoraz from Croatia. Ten quota place winners have previously won between them zero and three medals, Jiri Gach of Czech with only two medals for Trap in a World Cup shoot but six for Double Trap including the World Championship. His fellow Czech Jiri Liptak has only won three medals but one was a World Championship won in ‘10, guess who will be giving his quota place to David Kostelecky?
For me Michael Diamond and Giovanni Pellielo are right up there with the all time greats. When it comes to Olympic Gold Medals however, multi-medal winners do not always translate into Olympic Champions and Pellielo is a good example. He needs that Gold to seal his career.
Alexey Alipov, who must also be considered an all time Trap shooting great, won his Gold Medal in 2004 at the Athens Games, so he can be a little more sanguine in that what you’ve done once you can do again. Diamond is a two time Gold Medallist but the last one was 11 years ago. Another quota place winner with only five previous medals to his credit is Alberto Fernandez but they include some good ones, the World and European Championships in 2010 and Gold in the 2011 World Cup in Sydney which won him his quota place. I think Fernandez could win the Olympic Games because he shoots without fear, gun in the shoulder calls, bang, all in a twinkling.
There are other aspects that make it difficult to predict the winners at the Clay Target events in the Olympic Games. World rankings count for little simply because the top performers do not compete against each other nearly enough
to be able to identify consistent form. Another important factor is that in spite of all the talk about professionalism in Clay Target shooting, even at the highest levels it is essentially an amateur sport. While many of the shooters competing in London this year have a life that is an approximation of the professional with time for lots of practice they have other occupations. For example, both Pellielo and Massimo Fabbrizi are described on their ISSF records as being Policemen, an indication that they are not professionals in the truest sense. It is therefore entirely possible that an inspired amateur can still win an Olympic Medal and may well do so. With form difficult to predict and the possibility of a relative unknown being among the winners, there is every opportunity for all of us to have lots of fun in this pre Olympic period with Clay Shooting’s Olympic Handicap Tote. See next issue for details and where I discuss the prospects of shooters in the other disciplines.