Nathan Lee Xuereb strengthened his reputation as a bright prospect in the Double Trap scene after winning a tense shoot-off to clinch second place at the European Junior Championships in Cyprus, yesterday.
This was another outstanding achievement for the 15-year-old who last month grabbed the headlines when he won the Malta International Grand Prix with an impressive straight in the barrage at the Bidnija ranges.
Silver medal in an event of this calibre is no mean feat from all aspects but there was still a tinge of disappointment attached as Xuereb practically missed out on gold following a low-key perfor-mance in the barrage.
In fact, he hit scores of 46, 49 and 47 in the preliminary round for an overall 142. At that moment he was sharing top spot with Rus-sian Artem Nekrasov.
However, Xuereb hit a modest 40 from 50 in the final to slip down to joint second on 182 along with another Russian shooter – Kirill Fokeev.
In windy conditions, Nekrasov managed 43 in the barrage to take gold on 185 but a shoot-off was required between Xuereb and Fokeev to determine the other two places on the podium.
Xuereb quickly settled the issue in his favour when hitting his opening pair while Fokeev could only manage one.
Had Xuereb won the com-petition in Larnaca yesterday, he would have followed in the foot-steps of William Chetcuti who was crowned European junior cham-pion in 2004, incidentally also in Cyprus but in Nicosia.
In the Open competition yesterday, Chetcuti failed to mount a serious challenge for a top-six berth and finished a distant 18th from 25 starters.
Chetcuti opened with an excellent 48 but failed to adapt to the windy conditions and only managed 41 and 45 in his next two rounds to fall out of contention.
Sweden’s Hakan Dahlby, who hit two successive straights in qualifying, took gold with 195 points. Britain’s Steven Scott (190) was second, just one ahead of Vasily Mosin, of Russia.
Coach Jimmy Bugeja said Chetcuti was never comfortable with the conditions prevailing yesterday as Xuereb did well to keep hold of his nerves when it mattered most.
“William never really got going. Perhaps, he felt uneasy in those circumstances,” Bugeja said.
“It was not easy to hit high scores as the wind was rather strong, making it very awkward for the shooters to keep some kind of consistency. But Nathan again showed a lot of maturity to stay calm and win the shoot-off.”
The next international event for Chetcuti and Xuereb will be the Shotgun Cup in Suhl, Germany, on June 11.
Meanwhile, it was also con-firmed that both Maltese shooters will be competing at the ISSF World Cup Finals in Slovenia, in September.
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