Trap champ Diamond to be given final chance

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Olympic trap-shooting champion Michael Diamond was handed a lifeline by the national shooting body yesterday when it agreed to allow him to compete in a «shoot-off» for a spot on the team to go to Athens. The gold medalist last week thought his chances of defending his title and winning a third consecutive gold were dashed after the national shooting association (ASA) refused to bend its rules governing Olympic selection. Diamond, who is of Greek origin, was not able to compete in the first of two selection trials last month because his firearms license was suspended after he was charged with assaulting his former girlfriend. But the charges were thrown out of court two weeks ago after a judge found witness testimony not to be credible and the police reinstated his license. Diamond had also pleaded guilty to a charge of not properly storing a firearm. He was concerned that only being able to compete in the second Olympic selection trial later this month would not earn him enough points to make the team. «I just spoke to (Australian Shooting Association chief) Nick Sullivan and he said (Diamond) would be allowed to shoot off for second place over the next three world cup events,» said Diamond’s manager James Phelps. «He is absolutely ecstatic.» Under the shoot-off plan, initiated by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), Diamond will compete for a place on the team with the person who obtains the second-highest ranking in the two Olympic trials. «The AOC offered great support through the whole ordeal and the ASA came through with the right decision. I mean, it must have been a difficult task for them,» said Phelps. «Michael will try to pay them back with his shooting and doing what he does best.» The AOC said the World Cup events would be held in Sydney in March, Cairo in April and Athens in April.