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P.E.I. native oldest Commonwealth Games athlete of all time

Summerside native Robert Pitcairn, 79, is the oldest athlete ever to compete in the Commonweath Games. He begins action Monday in his sport of full bore shooting. He is shown at his home in Chilliwack, B.C., in 2014.
Summerside native Robert Pitcairn, 79, is the oldest athlete ever to compete in the Commonweath Games. He begins action Monday in his sport of full bore shooting. He is shown at his home in Chilliwack, B.C., in 2014. - -File photo

BY LAURA SAVVAS
BBC SPORTS

Summerside native Robert Pitcairn is competing in the Commonwealth Games as the oldest athlete – ever.

The 79-year-old full bore shooter was born in 1938 – somewhat fittingly, in the same month the first Superman comic was released.

"I feel honoured to set the new age record and grateful my health and athleticism made it possible for me to be competitive in the Gold Coast Games," Pitcairn said after a training session at the Belmont Shooting Centre.

At 79 years and nine months old, his debut at the Games on Monday will break the record previously held by England's Doreen Flanders, who took part in lawn bowls at Glasgow 2014 a few weeks after her 79th birthday.

Related: Retired pilot Bob Pitcairn remains on the fly

Pitcairn’s quest to compete started in 1960 after he was introduced to shooting as an Air Force cadet. However, he was not able to be a serious contender for the Commonwealth Games until his retirement in 1998.

After narrowly missing out on a spot for Manchester 2002, Pitcairn was determined to invest more time in training for the trials for this year's Games.

During the last national trial, he shot flawlessly and grabbed one of two places for the Gold Coast – an achievement he describes as "the pinnacle of (my) long shooting career".

"My goal is to stand on the podium with my partner, Nicole Rossignol, in the pairs event, and then again for the individual event. I trained hard, I'm aiming for that, and I am going to get them.”
-Robert Pitcairn

Now, you're probably wondering how he celebrated. Well, he replaced his 22-year-old shooting jacket with a brand new one in his beloved Canadian red and white colours.

And if the fact he's almost 80 and competing in a Commonwealth Games isn't enough of a reason to get behind him, Pitcairn used to be a commercial pilot and is well known for his heroic past.

In 1974, he foiled a hijacker on a 737 he was flying with 120 passengers aboard.

He's even shared his expertise with his son, Donald, who is also an accomplished rifle shooter. In fact, the pair both competed at the 2011 and 2015 World Long Range Rifle Championships.

But Pitcairn, who turns 80 on June 26, is not satisfied with merely being the oldest athlete in the Games' history. He wants more.

"My goal is to stand on the podium with my partner, Nicole Rossignol, in the pairs event, and then again for the individual event. I trained hard, I'm aiming for that, and I am going to get them," he said.

His quest begins on Monday with the Queen's Prize Pairs Finals, before the medal event the following day. He will also have another chance at securing a medal when he competes in the Queen's Prize Individual on Wednesday and Thursday, which culminates in a medal event on Saturday.


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