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Still competing, 1978 gold medallist hopes Commonwealth Games return to Edmonton

Canada's Des Vamplew competes in the pairs event in Commonwealth Games fullbore shooting at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre in Carnoustie, Scotland on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Vamplew and partner James Paton won the silver medal. Vamplew was a gold medallist in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and hopes to compete at the Games there in 2022 if the Edmonton bid is successful. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

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Canada's Des Vamplew competes in the pairs event in Commonwealth Games fullbore shooting at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre in Carnoustie, Scotland on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Vamplew and partner James Paton won the silver medal. Vamplew was a gold medallist in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and hopes to compete at the Games there in 2022 if the Edmonton bid is successful. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

GLASGOW, Scotland - Des Vamplew has fond memories of the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.

If the committee looking to bring the event back to Alberta's capital has its way, he might get an opportunity to live that experience again.

Vamplew is competing in fullbore shooting at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, 36 years after winning a gold medal for Canada in the same event on home soil.

"In some respects it's almost like yesterday," Vamplew said recently.

While he focuses on the targets at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre about 120 kilometres northeast of Glasgow — Vamplew won a silver medal in pairs on Saturday — members of Edmonton's bid committee are working on their own goal of bringing a fifth Commonwealth Games to Canada in 2022.

If it happens, Vamplew said he will do his best to be there.

"That's the neat thing about shooting. It's like golf," said the 58-year-old said in a phone interview. "You can carry on for quite a long time."

Vamplew's older brother, Pat, finished third in the fullbore competition back in 1978 to bring the family home two medals from Edmonton and also has vivid memories of that time.

"We were so young and it was one of our first international experiences," said the 61-year-old two-time Olympian who now coaches his brother. "We got to do it together, and we were both successful ... it's just something you don't forget."

Still a pretty good shot himself, Pat Vamplew said he expects his sibling will still be competing in eight years time, especially if Edmonton is awarded the Games.

"Oh he will be, he will be," he said, before adding with a laugh: "If it's not him, it will be me."

Des Vamplew said the brothers in their 20s from Toronto weren't given much respect in Edmonton the first time around, but that quickly changed after a few days of competition.

"We actually showed up late. A lot of the guys were older and had been there already for a week training," he said. "We only had a couple of days of practice and we were into it. You hear the snide remarks, 'When are the Canadians going to show up? Who are these young guys?'

"Pat and I liked to hear those comments from people because all that did was make us work harder."

Fullbore shooting consists of athletes firing at targets between 300 and 1,000 yards away — a much greater distance than the sport's other disciplines.

"That's where you separate the men from the boys," said Des Vamplew. "We don't shoot with a telescope on the rifle, it's just a peep sight."

He added that shooting is mainly mental, with repetition, nerves and the ability to adapt to changing conditions among the main factors leading to success.

"I'll compare it to Tiger Woods on the 18th green with a 10-foot putt to win the tournament," said Des Vamplew. "What's going through his mind? You really have to focus.

"There's a lot of good shooters out there, but to be able to do it on demand and produce at a high level, there's only so many people who can do it on a consistent basis."

Fullbore is not an Olympic sport, but Des Vamplew said the success back in Edmonton helped raise shooting's profile across Canada, something that he predicts would happen again at another home Games.

"Back then in '78 it was like the Olympics for fullbore," he said. "It was a good stimulant for the sport in general because we hadn't done well in fullbore internationally up to that point. People enjoyed it and spurred other folks on to do well later on ... and here we are 36 years later."

The only other city looking to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022 at this point is Durban, South Africa, with bids due in March and the official decision set for September 2015.

Edmonton bid chairman Reg Milley, who is in Glasgow with a team networking and gathering information, is confident his city is the right fit.

"When Edmonton hosted the Games back in 1978, it was a real turning point for the Games and for the city," said Milley. "A lot has changed since then. I look at what we have to offer in the city of Edmonton now and it's a tremendous amount.

"We made a very conscious effort to meet as many of the delegates as we can because this is the last time we will have all 71 member countries in one place before we have to submit our bid."

One wrench in the plans could be geography. An African country has never hosted the Commonwealth Games and there is a feeling in some circles it's simply that continent's turn.

Milley said Edmonton representatives are enrolled in the observer program in Glasgow to get a handle on the inner workings of the event, adding that in the end the decision on who hosts should come down to what is best for the athletes.

"It's not about where the Games are held as much as about how the Games can be moved ahead," he said. "What we're looking at is 'How can we take the Games to the next level?"

Hamilton hosted the original British Empire Games — as it was known back then — in 1930, before Vancouver in 1954 and Victoria in 1994.

For his part, Vamplew is hopeful the Edmonton bid comes out on top next year, not only because the Games would be back on home soil, but also because it would bring him full circle.

"That would be a buzz," he said. "We'll take it one step at a time, but it's not that far away."

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