Commonwealth Games 2002
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Shooting Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Wales land first medal
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Wales' first medal of the 2002 Commonwealth Games was a double triumph for Chester shooter James Birkett-Evans

Birkett-Evans took bronze in the men's trap pairs, along with partner Michael Wixey, two years after being diagnosed with bowel cancer.

The 36-year-old underwent chemotherapy in a bid to beat the illness, and his detemination was rewarded with third place behind Australia and England in Bisley.

"I suppose every day's a bonus for me, but it's not something I think about now," said Birkett-Evans.

Uppermost in his mind was the fear of just missing out again after finishing fourth on several occasions since winning the pairs silver medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

Gold beckoned as they were tied with Australian's Adam Vella and Michael Diamond and English pair Ian Peel and Christopher Dean going into the last round.

The Aussies won on a countback after both pairs finished on 187, while Wales were just one hit back on 186.

Birkett-Evans, cheered on by his Welsh flag-waving fiancée Rhian who he will be marrying in October, said: "I'm very pleased with the 97 I shot today.

"If anyone had promised me the bronze before we started this morning I would have taken that. For shooting, in a country like Wales, this is very welcome."

His run of fourth places included the pairs in the last Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur four years ago and, after all that has happened to him since then, bronze was more than satisfactory.

"It does tend to put everything into perspective in your life," he added.

Wixey, his 31-year-old partner from Newport, said: "I'm over the moon. I'm pleased we hung in and won the medal.

"I felt of lot of pressure because it's my first time at the Commonwealth Games.

"James shot very well and I didn't want to let him down, especially towards the end and the position we were in."

Australian gold medallist Vella admitted that finally securing victory came as a pleasant surprise.

"We didn't really expect to get it. Wales shot really strongly," he said.

Less happy was English silver medallist Peel.

"I'm very disappointed," he groaned. "It was in my grasp to beat the Australians, but I didn't do it."

Michael Wixey
"I'm pleased we hung on and won a medal"
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