Bidnija was an unusually quiet place yesterday as all Malta Shooting Sport Federation (MSSF) competitions at the ranges were halted for a much-awaited break in a hectic 2010-11 calendar.

For some, it was an ideal occasion to spend some time with their families for Easter but that was not really the case for federation president Saviour Portelli.

The mobile phone glued to his hand, he waited impatiently for results to arrive from China where Bidnija hero William Chetcuti was taking part in the ISSF World Cup shoot at the Beijing Olympic Range.

In the end, the long and frustrating wait was worthwhile.

Chetcuti was making his first World Cup showing of the year in Double Trap but he defied the odds to clinch gold and secure an Olympic berth for London 2012.

For Portelli, a dream that had taken several years of sheer dedi-cation and hard work was finally realised.

“This was no common Sunday for us with William competing in the World Cup,” he said.

“True, there were no com-petitions at Bidnija but the Beijing shoot still kept most of us on tenter-hooks.

“This was a crucial result for the federation. We always wanted to have one of our shooters qualifying for the Olympics on his/her own merit and not via a wild card.

“We’ve been working on this project for several years now and intensified our efforts when William came to the fore and started showing promise.

“No doubt, this was the best result ever not only by one of our shooters but, I suppose, as regards all Maltese sportsmen/women.

“I don’t think anyone from this country has ever qualified for the Olympics in such manner. There was great pressure on William but we knew he could handle the situation.”

Beijing was the third leg of this year’s ISSF World Cup following the shoots in Chile and Australia earlier this year.

Chetcuti skipped the first two as the federation had to budget its funds for overseas participation.

“Before the season got underway we discussed the matter thoroughly with all parties involved,” Portelli said.

“You need huge financial backing to have a shooter taking part in all World Cup shoots and it wasn’t the Double Trap competition alone we had to cater for. We have other talented shooters in different disciplines and our duty is to give them a fair chance to gain more experience at this level.

“But, I guess, we did the right thing in the end as we deemed that William’s best possibility of success was in China. He had already figured twice in that same Olympic range and returned home with very encouraging results. This was third time lucky so we’re happy for the lad and his coach Jimmy Bugeja.

No easy task

“Victory was no easy task, however, as William had to compete against shooters who had already taken part in the previous two World Cup events. They were all geared up for this occasion but our boy was the best on the day and that makes his achievement even more significant.”

Meanwhile, messages of con-gratulations started pouring in and the first to come were those from Kunsill Malti għall-iSport (KMS) and the Maltese Olympic Committee (MOC).

“We congratulate local shooter William Chetcuti for his wonderful feat in placing first and even winning a spot in the London 2012 Olympics,” KMS chairman Bernard Vassallo said.

“We are proud that Chetcuti, a KMS employee and benefiting fully to train full-time since 2005, has again achieved a formidable result.

“Well done also to the shooting federation.”

The MOC said the gold medal in Beijing yesterday was the fruit of the MSSF’s efforts to groom Chetcuti into a top-notch shooter.

“We join the rest of the country’s sporting fraternity in expressing our joy at this outstanding performance and hope that Chetcuti’s achieve-ment will spur others to obtain similar results.”

Chetcuti and Bugeja return home tomorrow afternoon.

The federation is planning to mark the occasion with a warm welcome at the airport and a reception at the Bidnija head-quarters later in the evening.


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