Judge was a sure fire choice by Olympic panel

LONDONDERRY man Martin Mace had a ringside view of the shooting events at the 2012 - but then he was one of the judges.

Wednesday, 15th August 2012, 11:43 am

A keen shot since childhood, Martin was a superior competitor at international level in his own right before studying the sport and transforming himself into a shooting sensei.

“I have been a shooter since 1957. My father was a gunner instructor in HMS Sea Eagle when the Navy were here and my playground was the shooting range,” said martin.

Having competed in three Commonwealth Games as a competitor, and gaining a silver medal, he learned that Northern Ireland was short of officials, that’s people that would do the organising to the uninitiated, he was approached about taking up that mantle. Martin also began coaching and among his many claims to fame is that he coached the NI Commonwealth team.

“From there it was commonsense to do the International Coach Licence and the International Judges Licence,” he said matter-of-factly.

Naturally those qualifications did not go unnoticed and Martin found himself approached by the powers that be to consider Olympic judging.

“In the meantime, as well as doing all of that, I became the Secretary of the Commonwealth Shooting Federation, the governing body for the shooting for the Commonwealth Games. So I was responsible for organising their championships. That meant I knew my way around a big event and because of that I think that’s why one of the people who was a member of the LOCOG the Olympic organising committee, approached me,” he said.

A range of people were approached, but ultimately Martin was one of only 13 people chosen to oversee the shooting events, and found himself working in the Olympics from July 25 .

“We had a test event in June to make sure everything worked. It was the biggest shooting event in the world up to the present time with over 800 competitors. It ran like clockwork so the Olympics was wee buns after that with 390 of the Olympians,” he laughed.

Asked what he thought of the experience, Martin said: “It was different because it was the first event I have seen where there were two-and-a-half times as many people as we had shooters waiting to get in. I would also have to say that the government has left us no legacy where shooting is concerned. Guns happened to be a bad thing with the Labour Government whenever the bid came through, so there is no legacy for the sport.”

On the upside,the Olympics gave Martin an opportunity to re-affirm his friendship with the eventual gold medal winner Sergei Martynov, of Belarus, who won the 50m rifle gold with record while also setting Olympic and world records for his score of 705.5. He previously won two bronze medals.

“The last time I met Sergei was in 1988 at his first event representing Russia, when he won the World Cup for shooting and he presented me with a pennant which he autographed for me. I produced the pennant again at the Olympics and he again autographed it for me. Sergei is a very publicity shy man and I am the only person he allowed himself to be pictured with,” Martin said proudly.