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Competition still fires battle-scarred Aussie

other Updated: Feb 21, 2010 00:24 IST
Ajai Masand

“Mix RVS Rathore’s temperament and Ronjan Sodhi’s technique…shake the two and you’ll get the best shooter in the world, mate,” is shotgun great Russell Mark’s recipe for producing the best double-trap marksman.

Every word the champion shooter, who won the double-trap Olympic gold and silver in 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney), has to be taken as gospel. The burly 46-year-old Aussie, here for the Commonwealth Championships, has more than two decades of experience and has trained Rathore, Sodhi and other Indians.

“It was a proud moment to see Chilly (Rathore) win silver in Athens (Olympics). He was my first pupil and a tough one mentally. India is lucky to have two great double-trap shooters …most countries have one,” says Mark, who is expected to defend his Melbourne Commonwealth Games title in Delhi.

“While (teammate and trap shooter) Michael Diamond decided to train for the World Cup in Acapulco (Mexico), I came to Delhi because I still enjoy big events, or those leading to something big like the Commonwealth Games.”

Mark agrees that India has overtaken Australia in shooting. “Their success at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games still hurts. We learnt some valuable lessons and we’ll come back stronger in Delhi. But the rivalry is good for the sport. “Seeing the ranges here, I wish India and Australia could come together more often and compete in these beautiful ranges.”

Any plans of taking up a full-time coaching job in India? “Not full-time. But part-time, yes. I am training a shooter (Nicholas Kirley) for the Commonwealth Games back home,” he said.

Mark’s love for the ranges also brought him closer to Lauryn, an American skeet shooter, now settled in Australia after marriage. “She is a triple Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and will be arriving tomorrow to compete.

He concluded on a lighter vein. “She (Lauryn) now calls herself an Australian with an American accent.”