William Chetcuti was given a hero’s welcome yesterday on his return to Malta after winning the gold medal in Sunday’s ISSF World Cup shoot in Beijing.
A sizeable crowd of shooting enthusiasts and other well-wishers thronged the Arrivals’ Hall at the airport to greet the Double Trap ace and his coach Jimmy Bugeja.
Both were then whisked to the Malta Shooting Sport Federation (MSSF) headquarters in Bidnija where Chetcuti addressed the media in the presence of a host of distinguished guests that included politicians and officials from Kunsill Malti għall-Isport and the Maltese Olympic Committee.
In Beijing, Chetcuti, 26, shrugged off the windy conditions to qualify for the final in fourth place before finishing off with a round of 44 to top the leaderboard on 185, two ahead of India’s Ronjan Sodhi.
Besides another shining medal to add to his remarkable collection, Sunday’s success also meant the MSSF had earned a direct entry for next year’s Olympic Games in London.
“It’s two days now since my victory in China but I still cannot believe I managed to win a World Cup shoot,” Chetcuti said.
“I have been trying to win an Olympic quota for several years now and there were occasions when I came agonisingly close... but finally I fulfilled my ambition. This is the reward of long hours of training with my coach and the support of my family. They’ve all been behind me in all these years.”
Chetcuti became the first Maltese shooter to ever win a World Cup shoot and now he believes that the gold medal won in China could be a turning point in his career.
“There were times when I was so close to make ground in high-profile competitions but a drop in concentration in key moments always cost me dearly,” Chetcuti conceded.
“On Sunday, however, things worked out differently as I went into the competition with very little pressure and felt confident right from the outset. In the final, I shot with consistency, never thinking of my position. In fact, when my rounds were over it was Jimmy who signalled me that I was first.
“This gold medal will increase my self-belief. I know, I can achieve higher targets in my career and I’ve also proved to myself that on my day I can beat anyone. This newly-found confidence can lead me to success in competitions of the highest level.”
Saviour Portelli, the MSSF presi-dent, said the federation was really proud of Chetcuti and they were all convinced that given the talent grooming at Bidnija, the country will secure other Olympic quotas in the near future.
“This is a milestone for our country, a success that our federation have been working on for more than a decade,” Portelli enthused.
“We spotted William’s excep-tional talent in his teenage years and we knew that he could achieve extraordinary results.
“Today, we are here reaping the rewards of years of investment in his capacity as a top-notch shooter. Others may follow suit to herald a new era for our sport where more Olympic quotas could be secured.
“We are always grateful for the continuous support from the authorities concerned but we still think that there should be more investment to support our shooters who fork hundreds of euros from their own pockets to practise and represent the country on the international scene.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Clyde Puli immediately heeded to Portelli’s call and told Chetcuti that government had decided to reward him with a grant of €10,000.
“We’re all proud of William’s achievements,” Puli told those present at Bidnija.
“This grant will help our shooter to continue with his preparations ahead of other international competitions this year.
“William has now acquired a role model status in our country and we all hope that this latest success of his will inspire others to take sport more seriously,” Puli said.
“Government is already plan-ning on setting up a unit at the Armed Forces where sportsmen like William will be given an opportunity to practise on a professional basis with no worries on their future as once they decide to quit the sport they will continue to serve the country until retire-ment age.
“As regards shooting sport, we also have plans for a new range that will cater for all disciplines and host international shoots such as the World Cup or other continental championships. Talks are ongoing and the next step is to identify an area where this national range will be based.”
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