TEAM NI: Medal hopes strong for shooting team

21/7/14: David Calvert (right) and Jack Alexander who represent Northern Ireland in the Full Bore Pairs event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
21/7/14: David Calvert (right) and Jack Alexander who represent Northern Ireland in the Full Bore Pairs event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

It’s an unlikely partnership but one that could see Northern Ireland win shooting gold at Glasgow 2014.

63 year-old David Calvert is the countries most successful ever Commonwealth Games athlete. He had already competed at two Games, in 1978 and 1982, before Jack Alexander had been born.

Now the pair will team up in the full bore rifle pairs in Scotland.

Calvert’s Commonwealth career is outstanding. Since Edmonton in 1978 he has won four gold medals and four bronze and Glasgow will be his tenth Games.

“It’s a real privilege and an honour frankly, really delighted to be in that position. I’ve been doing it for a long time so I must find something in it. I enjoy the sport, the competition and the social side is important too as we end up competing with and against the same people a lot of the times for years and even decades,” explained Calvert.

He added, “Ten Games. Well I wouldn’t have believed it was possible some time ago but apparently it’s happened so I have got to believe it.”

Alexander is 22 years-old and making his Commonwealth Games debut. He lives in Swindon and trains with Calvert at Bisley and in order to produce a combination that can compete for pairs gold, the two men have had to forge what in other circumstances would seem a strange match.

Calvert admits, “With Jack of course, he is almost a third of my age which is quite an unusual combination, and we’ve being doing a lot of training together to work up as a team, for the pairs match in particular. I think it’s very good. He’s got a lot of positive attitude and skill, talent and potential and I’ve got some experience behind me, so together I think we are both learning and I hope it will go well.”

A younger Calvert perhaps?

“Yes, I think you’re probably right. He’s enthusiastic he’s enjoying it and I think he’s probably competitive and as I say he has got the right attitude. I think I see a little of what I felt like at that time.”

Alexander agrees. “You couldn’t really ask for much more could you? Having someone there who is as experienced as David is just a bonus really. It’s a huge benefit for me, any questions I have he backs me up and answers them for me, any queries he’s there to answer them for me, it’s great and very supportive having him there. I think we work very well together, we are both very different, as much as we both love the same sport that we are doing, and I think we’ll work well.

Having David there with all his experience and my lack of experience, and the skills we can put together, will hopefully have a good outcome.”

Once the pairs competition is over the two will shoot against each other in the singles event.

“I think Jack will have a really good chance of doing well, I’d like to think that the two of us will not only be competitive in the pair’s event but the individual event too,” said Calvert who certainly isn’t considering retirement at the moment either. The Gold Coast in four years time is still a possibility.

“What keeps me going is the enjoyment of the sport, the friends and the comradery of the sport and the competition.

Any time it happens it’s marvellous it’s a great experience and you know I’d love to do it again. I think having already achieved takes away some of the pressure, but the expectations are still there so that adds to the pressure. It’s a bit of a mix actually.”

As for Alexander, well he is just hoping he can have a similar career and success as his partner for Glasgow.

“I would like to see myself go as far as he has in the Games. He’s so consistent and he gets selected every year without question. I hope to be able to turn up on the day and perform the way I have done and have shown I can do. And on the day I can cope with the pressure, perform my best and hopefully win the prize.”

The Northern Ireland shooting team has medal hopes in other disciplines. Melbourne 2006 silver medalist David Beattie, 61, competes in his third Games in the men’s trap alongside Kilkeel’s David Henning while Kirsty Barr, (Trap) and Louise Aiken (50m rifle prone) lead a strong ladies team.