Longford man Derek Burnett, 41, is the latest addition to the list of Olympians representing Ireland at London 2012.
Burnett, who lives in Kenagh, has become the 40th Irish competitor to qualify for the London Olympics this summer and will take part in the Clay Pigeon shooting contest. London will be his fourth consecutive appearance at the games, after Mr Burnett appeared in Beijing, Athens and Sydney back in 2000.
His best placing to date was at Athens 2004 where he finished ninth, narrowly missing out on a top -six finish which would have given him a spot in the finals. Last time out in Beijing, Mr Burnett was disappointed with his performance. “Beijing knocked the teeth out of me. Going into that tournament, I was confident I was shooting well and could do well. But it’s a bit like golf, if it doesn’t go well on the day you can find yourself a long way from the top.
“I would say if I’m shooting well during the tournament I’ll certainly be within a chance,” he said optimistically.
It would certainly be unwise to rule him out after the ICSPA gave Ireland’s 40th Olympian the spot on foot of his bronze medal showing at the European Championships in Kazan, Russia, two years ago as well as strong performances at a number of events this year.
His skills also make him one of the few athletes to be eligible for the Irish Sports Council’s €40,000 Podium grant. Asked what a difference this grant makes, Mr Burnett said it allowed him to travel to competitions throughout the world.
“Already this year I’ve been to Arizona, Italy last week and Cyprus coming up soon. All those events cost a lot of money to go to, so the grant allows me to compete more than anything else,” he said thankfully.
The sharpshooter’s participation continues a strong tradition of Irish clay pigeon shooters at the Olympics, with the country being represented at every event since Mexico City in 1968.
Mr Burnett expects to step up his training in the coming weeks, with an intensive preparation planned in Italy for the lead up to the games in July.
The sharpshooter has already been inundated with people looking for help sourcing tickets to support him across the Irish Sea this summer but the Kenagh man laughed, “I wouldn’t even know where to get myself a ticket.”