A shocked and delighted Matt Skelhon said he had let his shooting do the talking after claiming his second medal of the Paralympics Games, a bronze in the R6 50m Rifle Prone SH1 final at Royal Artillery Barracks this morning (Tuesday).
Skelhon scored 693.2 in total to finish third in the mixed event, a discipline he only took up 18 months ago. The Peterborough marksman missed silver by 1.4 after just scraping into the eight-strong final in seventh place from the earlier qualifying round.
He was three points off the lead going into the final and only moved into bronze medal position when he fired 10.6 with his fifth effort in the 10-shot final.
His score of 104.2 in the final was enough to push Sweden’s defending champion Jonas Jakobsson out of the medals. Jakobsson is a legend of the sport having won every gold medals in this event since it was introduced at the Sydney 2000 Games.
Skelhon cut a striking figure four years ago when he won the R3 10m Air Rifle Prone in Beijing wearing a bright Mohican haircut. Now sporting a more conventional style, he won silver in that event on Saturday, but couldn’t find the words to express his surprise at pulling off a second medal-winning performance today.
“I am speechless,” said the 27 year old afterwards. “I can’t actually believe it at the minute. It’s amazing.
“I came here to win the prone and came away with a silver but I shot a PB and it was a phenomenal competition.
“Now I have got another medal and I’m over the moon with today and dead chuffed to get two medals.”
Asked why he had cut his hair, he said: “I wanted to be known for my shooting and not my hair. I guess my shooting has done the talking here and I’m known for that.”
There were shocks across the board as none of the favourites won medals. Sultan Abdullla Alaryan of the United Arab Emirates took gold with 694.8 and Juan Antonio Reinaldo Saavedra won silver with 694.6.
Skelhon’s chance of silver vanished when the Spaniard scored 10.7 with his ninth shot. But after nearly missing the final altogether he was overjoyed to make the podium.
Skelhon had finished seventh in qualifying when he scored 589, an average of 9.817. He employed his usual rapid-fire style, but had to make up for a poor start with two 99s and two centuries in his six series after hitting just 94 with his first 10 shots.
“The first 10 shots I messed up today and then I gave myself a talking to,” he said. “I had a couple of shots that I messed up and without them I could have got to the finals in a more comfortable position.
“In the final I didn’t look at the scores until half way through. I knew that I was back in seventh at the start and I just wanted to focus on my own shooting.
“I heard all the cheers so I knew I must be doing well and when I looked I saw I was in third.
“I’m never going to be disappointed with that. No one should be disappointed at the Paralympics. I would not have won my two medals without that support.”
There was disappointment for Britain’s two other shooters, however. Karen Butler was 23rd in qualifying on her return to the Paralympics after a 12-year absence, and Games newcomer Ben Jesson was 47th.
Butler, 45, from Bristol, found the conditions difficult on the range where she scored 581.
“It was tough today and I’m disappointed,” she said. “I couldn’t get any consistency in the conditions, with the sun flickering in and out and the wind.
“The scores were very low across the board today. If I’d shot my average or above I would have got into the final.”
Jesson, 24, from Crawley, was already looking forward to the next Games after firing a disappointing 566.
“It was a good attempt for my first Games but I was hoping for a little better than that,” said Jesson who admitted that nerves got the btter of him.
“I thought I was alright in the morning but the butterflies kicked in and unfortunately I just started falling apart a little bit. I have six weeks off now and then it’s back to training for Rio.”
For more news and pictures from London 2012 go to the ParalympicsGB website: www.paralympics.org.uk/gb