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Nigel Kelly gold medal
Main man: Nigel Kelly won the Island’s second gold medal when he triumphed in the Skeet event ahead of Joe Neville (England) on his right and Canada’s Brian Gabrielle

Nigel Kelly, gold, Skeet, 1986

The Isle of Man struck its second gold medal on shores much closer to home when Nigel Kelly, 22, triumphed in the clays Skeet event at the 1986 Games in Edinburgh.

Manx Radio’s sports editor Geoff Cannell captured the drama in an article for a Manx magazine when he reviewed the Island’s overall performance at a Games blighted by a boycott by African, Asian and some Caribbean countries.

‘It really was an exemplary effort, achieved against many odds. For a start, he had suffered the disappointment of seeing a medal chance vanish when he shot only 19 of the final 25 clays in the pairs competition with Andy McKeown. Even a fairly modest 22 would have brought them a place on the rostrum.

‘Next there was an internal disagreement with shooting manager Frank Coffey over his somewhat dubious nocturnal discipline, which left the two in bitter conflict, with the very real possibility that he would not shoot the individual event.

‘Finally, there was the enormous pressure created by his sterling endeavours on the first day when sanction was given for him to take to the Kippen Range. He shot 98 ‘birds’ out of 100 and emerged overnight leader with the rest of the Commonwealth asking “Nigel who?”

‘Frank’s genuine desire to protect his teamster’s opportunity to do well by advising him to “have an early night” was disregarded by the headstrong Nigel.

‘Indeed, he responded by disappearing overnight, reappearing just in time to catch the transport back to the range! And as Peter Kelly and Andy McKeown drove the 50 miles from Edinburgh to Kippen, Nigel was flat out asleep on the back seat of the Ford Sierra, loaned by the Manx Tourist Board.

‘But was it all an act?

‘Certainly, as he stepped out for his opening series, he was all of a twitter and looked very likely to blow up when the guns started blazing! However, cool as a cucumber, he dismissed the challenge of some of the world’s best by almost contemptuously shooting 24 birds out of 25 to remain in the lead, although joined by two others on 122 out of 125.

‘A second series of 25 birds was shot before lunch, and with little wind to worry about, Nigel blasted the lot to stay firmly on top, though still in company with Gabriel of Canada and Woolley of New Zealand.

‘Apart from the idiosyncrasies of his on-range behaviour, 22-year-old Nigel was shooting like a champion. The rest were by then perplexed and wondering what they could do to shift the Isle of Man lad.

Nigel Kelly
Celebration time: (left to right) Andrew McKeown, Nigel Kelly, team commandant Dursley Stott and Peter Kelly share Nigel’s big moment

‘The third series of 25 birds saw Nigel miss one target, while Gabriel again went unpenalised. That saw the Canadian move into the lead while Nigel and two others shared the silver medal spot with one set of 25 clays remaining.

‘With no medal at all from the Brisbane Games in 1982, the Manx contingent were hungry for success, but were prepared to concede that a bronze medal would be more than enough.

‘But not for Nigel.

‘Even though he and Joe Neville of England were forced to shoot after Gabriel and Woolley, they made light of the electrifying tension.

‘Gabriel and Woolley would surely shoot straight 25s and leave Kelly and Neville with the pressure.

‘But no, they too succumbed to the high level and each dropped two shots. So, it was Neville and Kelly for the gold. If both shot the final 25 birds without loss, there would be a shoot-out for the gold medal.

‘Neville was like a rock. Kelly was shuffling and dancing and really psyched up. Up they stepped and banged off 10 shots apiece without loss. Then, amazingly, Neville missed one. A final penalty-free shoot would give Kelly from the Isle of Man the gold medal.

‘He knocked off the remainder of the clays and whooped with delight as it dawned on him that he was the 1986 Commonwealth champion with 196 out of 200, only one shot off the all-time Commonwealth record! ‘ Extraordinary.

‘Back in Edinburgh, the genial Frank Coffey was sporting enough to be the first to congratulate Nigel. And there wasn’t a word of caution as Nigel set out to celebrate by spending the third successive night long outside his curfew!’

Dave Moore, silver, 50m small-bore prone, 1998

1966 Stadium

Kept his cool: Dave Moore collected a silver medal in the 50m small-bore-prone event

Cool Hand Luke springs to mind when it comes to Dave Moore’s silver medal winning performance in the 50m prone rifle event in the heat and humidity of Malaysia.

Second place was a first for the Island, policeman Moore scoring 694.6 – just 2.8 behind the legendary Stephen Petterson (NZ) and .5 ahead of South Africa’s Gavin Van Rhyn.

Moore had not had the easiest of times prior to Kuala Lumpur and the ranges at Keddah, having suffered a serious back injury when he was struck by a motorcycle and its rider just before the start of a race in TT Week. Lost training was just one of the handicaps he endured as a consequence.

However the 1998 British 50m small-bore champion was very ‘zoned’ on the morning of the shoot, listening to music on his personal stereo ahead of a long battle.

The ultimate top three were also physically close on the range and Moore takes up the story:

‘Petterson was on my left and Van Ryan on my right. I had met both before on a number of occasions, and both had won medals at the 1997 Commonwealth Shooting Federation championships at the same range.

‘Petterson was an Olympic shooter and by the end of the Games he had won five medals, four of them gold.

‘I had a set sequence of how I shot a match – first the sighters and then 20 scoring shots; break, 20 scoring shots; break and then the final 20 scoring shots. In my first sequence of 10 shots I dropped three points (97 ex 100).

‘I was nervous but managed to settle myself and in the next sequence shot 100 ex 100 for a score at this point of 197 ex 200. I broke off and listened to some music, ate some fruit and drank fluid.

‘During the next sequence I ‘cleaned’ all 20 shots for a score of 200 ex 200. I again broke and did the same thing again, drinking and eating. By this time the temperature had reached the 90s and the humidity was more than 90 per cent.

‘In the final sequence, I started with 100 ex 100 but in my last series of 10 shots I allowed my mind to start thinking about a final score and dropped three points to end up with a final score of 197 ex 200 and an overall score of 594 ex 600.

‘On looking at the score card, I noted that in the middle period I had shot 43 consecutive 10s.

‘At the end of the qualification, Petterson was holding first with 596 ex 600, I was second with 594 and Van Rhyn third with 593.

‘The top eight shooters then compete in a ten shot final. There is preparation and sighting time then the 10 scoring shots are made one at a time, with each shooter having to shoot within 45 seconds.

‘At the end of each shot the score is called out with a maximum score of 10.9 available on a graduated target, calculated electronically, so a perfect bull’s eye score is 10.9, then 10.8 and so on and this score is added to your total from the qualification round.

‘It is therefore possible to change position during the final with each scoring shot. So someone in 8th place can come up and win a medal, conversely someone in a medal position at the start of the competition can end up with nothing, it is all about holding your nerve.

‘The final was held in the afternoon, so there was a break in-between the two phases allowing time to eat, drink and relax.

‘I was then approached by good friend Martin Mace, the Northern Ireland manager, who advised me to ‘disappear’ as it is not uncommon for people to try and get inside your head and mess you up before a final, it's all about psychology.

‘I accepted his advice and went off to the full-bore range to watch team-mate Paul Quilliam. On returning to the range for the final, Martin told me that a number of other competitors’ coaches had been asking for me and wanting to congratulate me on getting to the final.

‘However, once on the firing line, no one can approach a shooter except the range officer or a judge, so I went straight to the firing line and sat at my point.

‘During the final my placing changed a number of times and I was told it was stressful for those on my team watching. However I remember very little, just focusing on each shot. On my second I hit 8.4, but I put it out of my head and kept working at my next shots.

‘That low score moved me from second to 5th or 6th at that point but I kept on concentrating and worked my way back up to second position.

‘Tim Glover of Manx Radio had been reporting on the match and I borrowed his mobile phone to ring my wife Fiona and let her know the result. It was early in the morning in the Island and I think I woke her up. Later on, when speaking to Tim at other events, he recalled how calm I was throughout the whole thing, saying he had never seen anyone so laid back after winning such a big medal.’

Trevor Boyles and Wilfy Walton
Brilliant performance: Trevor Boyles (left) and Wilfy Walton celebrate winning the bronze medal in the Olympic Trap pairs

Wilfy Walton and Trevor Boyles, bronze, Olympic Trap pairs, 2006

It may have been St. Patrick’s Day but Friday, March 17 was hijacked by the Isle of Man to celebrate another marvellous moment for Manx sport.

Trevor Boyles and David Walton clinched a magnificent bronze medal in the men’s Olympic Trap pairs competition at the Melbourne Gun Club.

It was the Island’s first ever medal in this discipline of clay pigeon shooting – and only the seventh in Commonwealth Games history.

Walton and Boyles ensured their place in the sporting hall of fame by finishing third with an outstanding total of 183.

That was enough to secure the bronze on countback ahead of India in a tense finish to the competition.

The Island’s two shooting stars – led by a very proud team manager Chris Turner - received a rousing reception back at the athletes’ village, with team members turning out in force to welcome them back. Their mobile phones were also red hot as friends and family in the Isle of Man called to offer their congratulations.

Walton’s children from his first marriage, Rachel and Thomas, were among the first to call after watching their Dad’s exploits on television.

‘Wilfy’, as he is known to his friends and who became a father for the third time to Caitlin just five weeks ago, remained typically down-to-earth after joining the Island’s sporting elite. But he was blown away by the reaction to that memorable moment.

‘So many people have come up to congratulate us and it seems to have lifted everybody in the Isle of Man,’ he said.

‘The kids phoned this morning to tell me they’d seen me shooting on the television and they were heading off to school to say their Dad had won a bronze medal.’

Boyles had actually predicted the duo’s success.

He said: ‘We were talking the night before the competition over a coffee and I said to Wilfy: “I really feel we can win a medal”. And we did it.’

Walton overcame a difficult start to set the tone for the Manx pair’s surge up the leaderboard. He opened with a slightly disappointing 20 but responded in impressive fashion to shoot rounds of 23, 24 and 24.

Boyles was steady throughout and chalked up scores of 22, 23, 23 and 23 as the Island duo leapt ahead of a host of Olympic, world and international shooters.

Walton said: ‘My first round let me down a bit but after that we dug in and fought our way through. ‘We got there in the end and I finished 23, 24, 24 to put the pressure on Trevor for the final round.’

Boyles added: ‘Whenever we go away we are always considered to be the underdogs because we come from a small island, but I think that gives you a lift and you try that little bit harder each time.’

He also paid tribute to the people who have helped to make Isle of Man shooters such a force at world level.

‘The facilities we now have in the Island are first-class and that has not been without a lot of hard work, most of which is voluntary.’

The Island medallists experienced a demanding schedule before taking their place on the podium. Boyles said: ‘It’s been a tough day. I was up at 5.45am, the bus from the village was at 7.10 and that took an hour to get to the shooting ground.’

And they also had to endure a nerve-racking finish, with shooters from India and Singapore in very close contention for the bronze.

Boyles said: ‘I was hoping and praying we would not get overtaken. It would not have been pleasant to finish fourth as we’d put in a lot of hard work.

‘Wilfy and myself feel that we are getting stronger with each event we compete in.

‘It was also nice to shoot in such good conditions, with plenty of sunshine and no wind which is very different from the Isle of Man.

‘We received a wonderful reception back at village. Chris Turner was on the phone to everybody as we were making our way back and as soon as we arrived all the team were out to greet us and had dressed the house up with banners of congratulation. It was then a case of popping the champagne.’

The shooters, both very easy going characters, were intent on enjoying their moment in the spotlight with a pint or two.

Boyles added: ‘We’ve got an hour before the bar shuts so I’m sure we can neck a few in that time.’ And he predicted more success for Team Isle of Man in Melbourne.