Mature Chetcuti eyes final breakthrough in London
William Chetcuti heads to London this morning pursuing all sportsmen’s lifetime dream of Olympic glory. The 27-year-old tells Valhmor Camilleri he cannot be in better shape ahead of the Double Trap shoot at the Royal Artillery Barracks range on August 2.
Mention the name of William Chetcuti and the first thoughts that spring to mind will be the various successes the Manikata shooter has achieved at home and abroad since first pulling the trigger as a 16-year-old.
Chetcuti made his first international appearance at the San Marino GSSE in 2001 and gave a clear indication of his fledgling skills when he won a silver medal.
The potential was there for all to see and not before long, he was labelled as Malta’s best hope of a first Olympic medal.
Under the tutelage of coach Jimmy Bugeja, Chetcuti went on to distinguish himself in various shoots and was mighty close to making the finals at the 2004 and 2008 Games in Athens and Beijing respectively.
His eighth place in China four years ago was the best position ever for a Maltese competitor at the Olympics. This time, he looks better prepared to edge the country closer to its first podium finish.
“This will be my third Olympics and I think the preparation this time was better,” he told The Times.
“In the past, I focused solely on my technique with the shotgun but this time we have worked on other aspects, particularly the physical preparation. Being fit is vital, especially in crucial moments when it’s important to have complete control of your mind and body.
“Fitness coach Jesmond Zammit has helped me a lot in this respect.
“With the assistance of Jimmy (Bugeja) I’ve tackled the few technical difficulties I encountered in recent months. Things look good and hopefully everything will fall in place on competition day.”
Chetcuti admitted that, in his teens, he didn’t quite understand what it really meant to compete at this level.
“In 2004, I was only 19 and went to Athens as if I was competing in an ordinary shoot,” he reminisced.
“I did my best and was happy with that but there were others who, like me, did not qualify for the barrage and cried... I couldn’t understand why.
“However, as I grew older and started to win a medal or two, I soon realised the real significance of competing at the top level.
“On paper, a World Cup event is more exhausting than the Olympics. This may sound absurd but there’s over 70 shooters in the World Cup compared to 24 at an Olympics.
“I know what I’m saying, especially after winning the World Cup competition in Beijing last year. However, the aura that surrounds the Games makes it more difficult for all competitors to control emotions and that applies for other sport as well.”
Although Chetcuti is saying he is in top form, his priority in London is to reach the final.
“In my two previous appearances at the Games I failed to make the barrage,” Chetcuti said.
“I was close but missed on both occasions. So, my main goal in London is to make the final. Anything can happen after that but placing in the top six after the qualifying round would be a major breakthrough.”
Chetcuti started 2012 on a sound footing as, in his first World Cup shoot in Tucson, US, he struck a new personal best score in qualifying of 147 on his way to a silver medal.
That remains his best showing of the season but Chetcuti reckons there’s no cause for concern.
“In our sport it’s rather difficult to maintain consistency,” Chetcuti, ranked third in the ISSF Double Trap list, said.
“Over the past two years I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I still managed some excellent results – a gold and silver in the World Cup along with some finals were the best I could do.
“People may think shooting is for anyone but this is a complex sport and you need everything to click into place on the day.
“If you take the Tucson shoot for instance, the day before I only managed 139 during training. The next day I hit 147... so everything depends on how things develop on competition day.
“True, results haven’t been so good in the last few weeks or so but I’m sure that on August 2 things will be much better.”
The emergence of 15-year-old Nathan Lee Xuereb in the last few months inevitably turned up the heat on Chetcuti who openly admits that the progress of his training partner has given him fresh motivation.
“I would be fooling myself if I say that I don’t consider Nathan as a genuine challenger in Double Trap,” he said.
“For the last 10 years I was training by myself. Now there’s someone who is talented and because him, I can’t lower my guard.
“Each time I step into the shooting range I always want to win, irrespective of who my opponents are, and Nathan has been a key factor in raising my motivation and commitment.”
At tomorrow’s opening ceremony, Chetcuti will carry the Maltese flag. This will be the second time for him to lead the country’s contingent.
“It’s a great honour for me to carry my country’s flag on such a memorable occasion,” he said.
“I’m grateful to the MOC for giving me this opportunity a second time after Athens 2004. It’s a sign that what I have done for Maltese sport is appreciated and that increases my drive to do even better in London.”
Coach Bugeja is the man credited with having groomed Chetcuti into one of the best shooters in the world.
The affable instructor, who works at the Shooting Academy in Kirkop, is not the type who seeks personal glory and his dedicated approach to Chetcuti’s training and development is mirrored in the shooter’s brilliant career so far.
Bugeja sounded pleased with the build-up to the London Games.
“We’ve done everything in our power to make sure that William is well prepared for the Olympics,” he said.
“In the last two months, we had two training camps in the UK where we fine-tuned some of William’s tactics.
“Besides, he has also worked on his physical fitness and I can say that I have never seen him in such great shape.
“This is William’s best chance of success and I’m sure he’ll give it his best shot. We’ve never made the barrage before but something inside keeps telling me that this time we can do it.
“Reaching the final would be a massive result and it would take the pressure off his shoulders.
“When William shoots without pressure, he is very difficult to beat.”
Double Trap may be an individual sport but Chetcuti knows he can’t do it all by himself as he acknowledged the contribution of Bugeja and all those who support him.
“Jimmy has been there since I first started to handle a shotgun,” he said.
“He’s been an influential figure in my career and so were my parents and the people at the federation, the MOC and Kunsill Malti għall-iSport. They’ve been great and their support, particularly in the last few months, has been incredible.”
“The pressure of competition has inevitably made me a difficult person to live with but everyone around me, not least my girlfriend, have been patient with me,” he added with a smile.
“In London, I want to do well for my country and for those who believed in my abilities and helped me become the man I am.
“I promise to give more than my 100 per cent. If there is someone who wants to see the Maltese flag flying high, that’s me and I’m determined to fulfil this dream.”