MOST daughters wish to grow up to be like their mothers, and now Jen McIntosh can savour emulating mum Shirley’s haul of Commonwealth Games medals. It was particularly special to be present in Barry Buddon yesterday, with Shirley, who won the first Prone gold medal for women 20 years ago, on hand to present Jen with a bronze medal in the same event yesterday. It is a case of like mother like daughter, with each having now earned four Commonwealth Games medals.
At only 23, the question is how many more can Jen hope to achieve? She has the chance to edge ahead of her mother today when she takes part in Rifle 3 Position qualification, with the final due to wrap things up here in Barry Buddon later this evening, after five days of competition.
It has not proved as momentous a tournament for Scotland shooters following their success four years ago in Delhi, when they brought back nine medals, more than any other Scottish team managed. The home setting has not proved quite the advantage hoped. It perhaps only served to heighten expectation as well as stress levels in a discipline relying on a calm heartbeat.
Jen McIntosh’s troubles on Saturday, when she burst into tears after failing to perform as she had hoped in the Air Rifle women’s final, illustrated the pressure under which she and others are operating, in front of their “ain folk”. And it really is often their ain folk.
It is noticeable just how many competitors, particularly Scottish ones, are being supported by large tranches of family members and friends, helping swell the galleries for a sport that is not known for being spectator-friendly.
There were tears yesterday, too, from McIntosh. These were easier to observe, since they stemmed from happiness, and because she was able to hug her mother on the podium. Shirley, who won four Commonwealth games medals in total at the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and 1998, presented not only Jen with her medal, but also hung gold and silver medals around the necks of, respectively, Sally Johnston, from New Zealand, and South Africa’s Esmani van Reenen.
Johnston triumphed with a Games record score of 620.7, while Van Reeen shot 620.1. Emphasising the tight margins in this event, McIntosh was just 0.6 behind. She later spoke of her relief at having secured a medal, and, while there might have been lingering disappointment at relinquishing the title she won in Dehli four years ago, McIntosh was not prepared to let this spoil the moment.
“I am just really glad to have come here and worked hard and come away with something at the end of the day,” she said. She revealed she had spoken to sports psychologist Kris Wood over the weekend, although she laughingly recalled there were few pearls of wisdom administered, just some straightforward advice: “Point down the middle and pull the trigger, something to that effect,” McIntosh smiled.
“On days like today, what it comes down to is being mentally focused. It was not easy out there. It came down to being able to hold it together and hold my nerve, and look at the wind and think: ‘Ok I missed that one, I need to make sure I get the next one’.”
There were no real crisis points yesterday. After she had completed the last of 60 shots, aimed at a target smaller than a 5p piece, she calmly raised her arm in salute. McIntosh knew she had likely done enough to secure a medal, although there was still time to wait before others in the 29 strong-field had finished.
“I had to go to equipment control and go through my equipment control checks and, by the time I came back from that it was all done, so the wait was not too painful this time.”
The sun was out but the eye of those other Scots harbouring medal prospects was not in yesterday. Before McIntosh salvaged some pride later in the day, local reporters drawn here yesterday were left with notepads detailing only woes and lamentations. There was also a sad farewell to be recorded: Shona Marshall fired her last shot in anger, at least in the setting of a global tournament.
The Aberdonian has now formally retired from international action, although she hopes to continue competing for Scotland in the domestic environment of home internationals.
With her daughter due to get married, Marshall has drawn the line at more trips abroad. Hers has been a gilded career on the international circuit: Over 12 years she has won a silver medal in Delhi as well team silvers at the world championships and European championships. Marshall shot 60 out of 75 in women’s trap qualification, failing to qualify for the final and missing her last target as the emotion of knowing it was her last international shot got the better of her. “I am hopefully still going to represent Scotland at the home internationals,” Marshall said yesterday, as she signed off from her third Commonwealth Games. “I have devoted a lot of time and effort to the sport. I still want to be involved in the sport, maybe along management lines. My daughter gets married next month so there may be grandchildren on the way soon. There are other things that I want to do. I have just had my 50th birthday, so it felt like a good time.”
Others reflected that the new format, whereby the scores in the final are re-set at zero, did not help their prospects. Jon Hammond, who won four medals in Delhi, failed to qualify for the men’s 50m Prone final. “I don’t think it necessarily rewards the best shooter that day,” he said. “In the shooting community we are still getting adjusted to starting from zero.
“I think we have all accepted it is incredibly exciting to watch as a spectator. If it makes it more exciting, then we have to support that. Does it necessarily reward the best shooter that day? Not always.”
Neil Stirton, from Aberdeen, at least qualified for the 50m Prone final, but was the first of the eight finalists to be eliminated. He is back in action this morning, in qualification for the Rifle 3 Position final. There was further disappointment yesterday, with Scots Alan Ritchie and Alan Goodall also failing to qualify for the men’s 50m Pistol final.