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Isle of Man at the Commonwealth Games Logo 2018 website 2018 website

SO CLOSE TO VICTORY IN VICTORIA 1994

1994 Isle of Man team
Victoria wave: (front row, left to right) Frank Coffey, Ron Killey, Harry Dale, Steve Cooil, Steve Partington, Danaa Myhill, Cal Partington, Steve Taylor, Marie Purvis, Carrie Cooil (partly hidden), Marcus Cooil (immediately behind his mother), Harry Creevy, Murray Lambden, Charlie Kennish, Stewart Watterson and Geoff Cannell
From top on steps: Richard Fletcher, Chris Turner, Nigel Kelly, Andrew Roche and Brian Roche

Athletics: Steve Partington (30km walk), Cal Partington (10km walk), Steve Taylor (30km walk), Danaa Myhill (100m)
Swmming: Marcus Cooil (100 and 200m backstroke, 50m freestyle)
Shooting: Chris Turner (Olympic Trap), Nigel Kelly (Skeet), Stewart Watterson (small-bore individual and pairs, three position individual and pairs), Harry Creevy (small-bore individual and pairs, three position and pairs) Charlie Kennish (full-bore individual and pairs), Paul Quilliam (full-bore individual and pairs)
Cycling: Richard Fletcher (road race), Andrew Roche (road race, 40km points and 20km scratch race), Marie Purvis (road race)
Team officials: chef de mission, Geoff Cannell; general team manager, Steve Cooil; assistant team manager, Frank Anderson; athletics, Murray Lambden; cycling, Brian Roche; shooting, Frank Coffey; assistant, Harry Dale; swimming, Carrie Cooil
14 athletes, 7 officials (21), flag: Steve Cooil
63 countries 2073 competitors

Canada 1994

Just 14 athletes made it to Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island due to a combination of stricter standards and a general sporting apathy in the Island.

The return to Canada failed to yield a medal but there were a couple of sterling performances with cyclist Marie Purvis claiming fourth place in the women’s road race. In the years between Games, she had represented Great Britain at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, won five British road race titles, and become the first British woman to win a mountain stage of the women’s Tour de France (1997), a race in which she finished sixth overall.

Harry Creevy’s sixth spot in the 50m small-bore prone individual event was particularly well merited, the Douglas publican showing early form with third in the pre-Games event and also top scoring in the pairs event with an impressive 595 ex 600.

For Purvis, the result followed an unsavory episode involving herself, coach/husband, John, and the team’s management that ultimately involved the Canadian police, the RCMP.

The goings on could well have damaged the reputation of the CGAIoM and compromised future fund- raising efforts, but while the incident left a prolonged bad taste for some, no long-lasting harm appeared to have been done.

The views of the rest of the team on the contretemps were summed up by team captain Stewart Watterson who wrote in a competitors’ report: ‘The team as a whole will be very saddened indeed if the lasting memory of these Games turns out to be the much publicised dispute between one competitor’s coach and an official of the Association.

‘From a small team of 14, representing a community of 70,000, and competing against the best in a Commonwealth of 1.3 billion people, five members, more than a third of the team, achieved top 10 placings.

‘That must be the strongest team performance ever by the Isle of Man. The team would like to think that the strength of that performance is duly recognised and is not allowed to become overshadowed by an isolated squabble.’

However the matter rumbled through committee rooms and lawyers’ offices for several years and an inquiry and report conducted by advocate, Peter Crellin, who represented the Island in fencing at the 1962 Games, produced a number of recommendations, some dealing with the need to regulate the role of coaches.

1994 Geoff Cannell
Man of many parts: Geoff Cannell, chairman of the Commonwealth Games Association of the IoM, was chef de mission of the 1994 team and also Manx Radio’s man on the spot. Never one to shy away from shoving a microphone in the face of a breathless competitor, here a naked Geoff leans out of his room to catch a word or two with Richard Fletcher (left) and Andrew Roche, just back from a training ride

The issue of who should carry the Manx flag at the opening ceremony also caused some controversy. Watterson and the rest of the team concluded it should have been Skeet shooter Nigel Kelly, thus continuing the Kelly from the Isle of Man theme ‘which has been successful in picking up special mention by TV commentators in the past and, when added to the fact that Nigel is a former gold medallist, this appointment virtually made itself. A very clear opinion exists among competitors that one of their number should always carry the flag in future.’

So what went wrong?

General team manager Steve Cooil later reported: ‘The flag bearer was selected at a team managers’ meeting and virtually all the competitors were considered for the role, but there were perceived difficulties with them all (stature, proximity of competition, rehearsal time etc, so it was decided (unanimously) that the GTM should carry the flag, the appointment of the most likely flag bearer was vetoed by his/her team manager.

‘I was uncomfortable about the decision, however if was necessary for the flag bearer to be walking or standing throughout the opening ceremony and that would have been a potential cause of irritation to any competitor.’

The shooters were bedeviled by early problems including the delayed arrival of their weapons and ammunition from London, unsuitable ammunition provided for practice, confusion over the type of targets to be used for the clay events and ranges being closed during official practice times.

Harry Creevy and Stewart Watterson focused on the small-bore events, adding the three-position to their schedule instead of the air rifle discipline.

A medal in the 50m small-bore prone pairs went begging after Creevy cracked off another 595 but partner Stewart Watterson’s form deserted him and he carded a disastrous 573, when all that was required in his own words was an average score.

Creevy described his own shoot as one of the worst he had ever done. ‘I was up three times and I could not settle. Normally I can get stuck in straight away, but it was really tortuous.’

His individual event performance was remarkable and the atmosphere in the first ever Olympic final shoot-out was tense and nerve wracking for spectators and competitors alike.

Creevy shot only the prone discipline of the three-position event, shooting a remarkable 399 ex 400, a British record. Watterson did not shoot.

Watterson suffered greatly throughout the Games and seriously his questioned his future in the sport, but would go on a year later to win the gold in the individual event at the inaugural Commonwealth championships in Delhi.

Nigel Kelly was a shadow of his best in the Skeet and Chris Turner never got into his stride in the Olympic Trap, while full-bore men Charlie Kennish and Army champion Paul Quilliam also struggled.

Cyclists Andrew Roche and Richard Fletcher found themselves up against fully-fledged and top trade team professionals who had been allowed in the Games for the first time. Fletcher crashed early on avoiding a fallen rider and spent a fruitless 60 miles trying to retrieve the situation before retiring, while Roche, who went on to be an ever present till 2014, claimed a creditable 13th after battling with an upset stomach.

The swimming competition was of an exceptional standard with two world and 21 Commonwealth Games records being set.

Just one swimmer, Marcus Cooil, made the team (along with coach/manager and mother Carrie and GTM, father Steve). Cooil was outside his bests in the 100 and 200m backstroke as well as the 50m freestyle, tendonitis in a shoulder hampering his final preparation.

1994 Marie Purvis
Even Stevens: Marie Purvis matched the performance of her then husband John’s fourth place in the men’s road race in 1978 by taking the same place in the women’s race

Daana Myhill, a GB international who two years later would be selected for the Olympic Games in Atlanta but was unable to travel and compete because of an injured back, returned to the Games arena after an eight-year absence. With a PB of 11.5, she met the same 11.7 qualifying standard set for England, but left it very late in doing so. She made the semi-final of the top-quality 100m, producing the 14th fastest time of the 26 in the event.

Injury ultimately ruled out Brenda Walker’s participation in the marathon - she made the selection but withdrew prior to team leaving for Canada.

After the heartache of Auckland, Walker had made local history in 1993 when she not only became the first Manx woman to beat two hours 50 minutes for the marathon but also to break the 2hrs 40mins mark, ranking her in the top six in Britain for the year and qualified her for the World Marathon Cup, although ruled out of travelling following an injury.

Cal Partington made her debut in the inaugural women’s 10km (6-mile) walk and came home a creditable ninth out of the 14 who started.

Husband, Steve, produced his fastest ever Games time in the men’s 30km, clocking an excellent 2.14.35 for seventh out of 15, battling all the way with the likes of Australia’s Simon Baker, Craig Barrett of NZ, Chris Britz of South Africa and a couple of swift Kenyans. Team-mate Steve Taylor clocked 2.21.34.

Brunei Prince ‘a rather nice bloke’

■ Nigel Dean, a member of the Manx team in 1966 and 1970 before he turned professional, was manager of the Zimbabwe cycling team.

■ Trap shooter Chris Turner was in salubrious company at the Heals Range. It’s rare that you get to train and compete against royalty but that’s what happened when HRH Prince Bolkiah of Brunei turned up complete with stretch limousines, manager, medical support, security people and his personal armourer. A member of the royal family of Brunei, Prince Bolkiah was entered under his full name (here goes) Paduka Seri Pengiran, Bendahara Seri, Maharaja Permaisara Pengiran Muda Jaji Sufri Bolkiah Ibni Al-marham Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifudden Sa Abdul Khairi Waddien. Personal sponsor to the whole Brunei team, HRH was said by Chris to be ‘a rather nice bloke’.

■ Sian Pilling, making a name for herself as a Great Britain triathlete and a member of the Manx team in Edinburgh where she ran the 1500m, was reunited with some of that team when she found herself on the same plane as the Isle of Man headed for London. Accompanied by her new husband, Sian wished them well. She competed for GB in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

■ Competitors need their relaxation and when shooters Nigel Kelly, Harry Creevy and Paul Quilliam went in search of salmon, a Canadian film crew tagged along. The Victorians contrived a host-an-athlete scheme so those from foreign parts could get a flavour of the country and the Manx trio were assigned a top guide.

Harry and Paul landed dogfish but were soon in pursuit of salmon after eavesdropping on other boats. Nigel, a keen fisherman, soon caught a chinook salmon, which took five minutes to land. He brought it back to the village where it was the object of much interest with the media keen to see if it could be beaten for size. As for Nigel, he said he was going to ask the chefs to cook it for him.

■ The Partingtons attracted a fair bit of media attention as did the Cooils, both families doing television interviews.

Results

ATHLETICS

1994 Car

Posh performer: Prince Bolkiah of Brunei used this stretch limo to transport himself from his luxury hotel to the shooting ranges on the outskirts of Victoria, where athletics manager Murray Lambden was an admirer

Women’s 100m, gold: Mary Onyali (Nigeria) 11.06
Danaa Myhill - 11.60 in quarter-final, 11.63 semi-final (8/8) 14/26 on fastest times
10km walk, gold: Kerry Saxby-Juna (Australia), 44.25
Cal Partington - 47.21 (9/14)
Men’s 30km walk, gold: Nick A’Hern (Australia) 2.07.53
Steve Partington - 2.14.15 (7/15)
Steve Taylor - 2.21.34 (14/15)

CYCLING

Men's Road race (114 miles), gold: Mark Rendell (New Zealand)
Andrew Roche - 13/85 at 15.52
Richard Fletcher – DNF
40km points, gold: Brett Aitken (Australia) 38pts
Andrew Roche – 19/30, 0pts
20km scratch race, gold: Stuart O’Grady (Australia)
Andrew Roche - 16/31
Women’s road race (60 miles), gold: Kathy Watt (Australia)
Marie Purvis - 4/19 at 2.13

SWIMMING

Men's 100m backstroke, gold: Martin Harris (England) 55.77
Marcus Cooil - 63.00 (20/22)
200m backstroke, gold: Adam Ruckwood (England) 2.00.79
Marcus Cooil - 2.18.51 (20/21)
50m freestyle, gold: Mark Foster (England) 23.12
Marcus Cooil - 26.18 (32/38)

1994 Isle of Man shooting team
Six shooters: (left to right) Nigel Kelly, Paul Quilliam, Harry Dale (assistant manager), Charlie Kennish, Stewart Watterson, Frank Coffey (manager), Harry Creevy and Chris Turner

SHOOTING

Olympic Trap individual, gold, Mansher Singh (India) 117 ex 125 plus 24 in final - 141
Chris Turner – 111 (16/40)
Skeet individual, gold: Ian Hale (Australia) 144 (includes final 25 score)
Nigel Kelly – 109 (23/26)
50m small-bore rifle prone individual, gold: Stephen Petterson (New Zealand) 596 ex 600 plus 102.4 in final - 698.4
Harry Creevy - 590 plus 101.6 in final – 691.6 (6/39)
Stewart Watterson - 585 (17/39)
50m small-bore rifle prone pairs, gold: New Zealand (Lindsay Arthur and Stephen Petterson) 1187 ex 1200
IoM - Harry Creevy and Stewart Watterson – 1168 (7/19) Creevy 595, Watterson 573 Harry Creevy competed in the 50m small-bore rifle 3 position pairs (with Stewart Watterson) but did not shoot the stand or kneel positions – prone 99, 100, 100,100 – 399. Watterson did not shoot.
50m small-bore rifle prone 3 position individual, gold: Michael Dion (Canada) 1139 (1234.2 after final)
Stewart Watterson - 1095 ex 1200 (16/19)
Full-bore individual, gold: David Calvert (Northern Ireland) 398
Paul Quilliam - 383 (26/44)
Charlie Kennish - 365 (41/44)
Full-bore pairs, gold: Australia (Geoffrey Grenfell and Albert Bowden) - 593
IoM – Paul Quilliam and Charlie Kennish - 563 (16/22) Quilliam 285, Kennish 278