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Silver joy for Keighley hot-shot Smith
Keighley’s Michelle Smith said winning silver at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi was her best ever achievement.
The former Greenhead School pupil, who has won British and European titles, came agonisingly close to a gold in the 50m rifle prone pairs with partner Sharon Lee.
But despite having to settle for second after losing out on an x-ring count to Scottish pair Jen McIntosh and Kay Copland, Smith was thrilled with her medal.
She said: “It was always a dream to compete at the Commonwealth Games and it’s great that this has finally come true.
“This really does beat all my other achievement as this is on a larger scale and people understand better when you say ‘I’m a Commonwealth silver medalist’.”
Smith played the dominant role, racking up 590 points from her six efforts, to put England firmly in gold medal contention but Lee struggled to find her aim in the windy conditions.
Having begun shooting as a 12-year-old at Keighley Rifle and Pistol Club just down the road from where she grew up in Parkwood, Smith paid tribute to those who have helped her on the road to international success.
She said: “Keighley Rifle Club was definitely a huge stepping stone on this achievement but that has to be thanks to the late Fred Pickles (a long-serving member who was president of the club at the time of his death in 2008) – and my former coach Tony Kavanagh, who nurtured me into the sport.
“It’s a shame that Fred isn’t around to see it really but I know he’ll be proud.”
Smith, who now lives in Havant near Portsmouth where she works as an IT technician, telephoned home at 5am on Monday morning to tell her family the good news.
Her dad Melvyn said: “She was always very hopeful of getting a medal and now it’s come to fruition.
“She has won English and British titles but this is without doubt the top of the tree.
“It’s a shame she couldn’t get gold but that’s the luck of the draw. We are delighted for her.”
Smith had hopes of gaining another medal in the individual competition but had to settle for fourth place after scoring 591 points, two behind bronze winner from Wales, Johanne Brekke, as McIn-tosh struck gold again.
Smith, who is now a member of Aireborough Rifle and Revolver Club, said: “I was hoping for another medal, just to be able to wake my dad up at 5am in the morning!”
The 27-year-old added: “I was a little gutted with fourth but it was another consistent shoot. I chased a few shots in the middle of the match but once I got back on track I was happy enough.
“I’m good mates with Jen and have represented Great Britain with her. She had an awesome shoot and there’s nothing anyone but her can do to stop that.”
While now looking forward to a well-earned rest, Smith already has one eye on an even bigger target – London 2012. She said: “Shooting at the Olympics has always been the main goal for me, but there has to be stepping stones along the way and this has proved to be a great one.”
Smith’s medal success more than makes up for the ankle injury she suffered when in Delhi back in February on a training trip with England. She tripped over some building materials on the shooting range and ended up on crutches.
Smith, who is looking for sponsorship, thanked her family and her boyfriend Mike for their support.