William Vella was a whisker away from a GSSE medal yesterday when he was edged out to fourth place following a tense shoot-off with Liechtenstein’s Michael Mattle in the men’s Air Rifle final at the Gemeindessal Range in Balzers.
Vella, winner of a silver medal in in Cyprus two years ago, looked on course to secure his second podium finish in the Games after finishing the first phase of the competition in third place on 564 points... just ahead of Mattle.
But, the final barrage turned out to be a battle of nerves between the two with Mattle eventually snatching third place following some precise shooting in his last five attempts to finish on 672.8 points, just 1.7 better than Vella.
The gold medal went to Marc-Andre Kessler, of Liechtenstein, who topped the shoot with 683 points. Cyprus’s Kostis Pitsilloudis placed second on 680.
The disappointment on Vella’s face was evident.
“I had the medal in my grasp and to lose it like that, in a shoot-off, is hard to fathom,” he told The Times.
“In this sport you have to keep in control of your nerves but in the shoot-off I was really tense.
“It showed in some of my targets while the Liechtenstein shooter was more focused and hit his best score of the day.
“Unfortunately, I have very little experience of such situations in an international shoot and that frailty was totally exposed today, I suppose. Now I have to put this upset behind me quickly as this week I have another competition coming up, the Prone Rifle.”
In the women’s Air Rifle, Malta’s Marianna Kisvardai failed to make the cut after placing eighth from 12 shooters. She had 372 points, five less than sixth-placed Anna Louiza Georgiou, of Cyprus.
The gold medal here was won by Luxembourg’s Carole Calmes with 499.1 points. Marilena Constantinou, of Cyprus, was second on 488 and Andorra’s Alvina Barrugues took the bronze with 486.9.
An interesting spectator at the range yesterday was William Chetcuti, the Double Trap champion who is attending the LieGames as ambassador of the Maltese Olympic Committee.
“This is a whole new concept for me, to be at these Games just monitoring the situation. Normally, I’m at the other side with those vying for a medal,” he said.
“I am really sorry for Vella who was so close to winning a medal but it was not to be. I know from past experience how bad you may feel when you lose a shoot-off but he’s a tough lad and I’m sure he will bounce back in the Prone Rifle.”
Turning his sights on his career, Chetcuti, who earned a quota to next year’s London Olympics after winning a World Cup shoot in Beijing last month, said: “The past few weeks have been very positive for me. So, I’m looking to maintain this good form till the end of the season.
“Next month I shall compete in another World Cup shoot, in Slovenia. Then I will head to the European Championship and the World Championships, both to be staged in Belgrade.
“The important thing now is to maintain consistency and look ahead to the challenges coming up.”