David Calvert can’t help but smile when you suggest that, at 67 and shooting for gold at a record 11th Commonwealth Games, he has become a monument to the Games’ enduring power. “I do think most people in Northern Ireland are bemused that I’m still competing. To me, it feels quite amusing,” chuckles the man who took part at Edmonton in Canada 40 years ago.
“That year, in 1978, the great Irish boxer Barry McGuigan was in the team, winning a gold medal, and it really doesn’t feel that long ago.”
The Belfast marksman lost out in a shootoff for a medal on his debut, but in nine Games since has garnered four golds and four bronzes and he’s still going strong.
Astonishingly, this long-time Royal Air Force pilot, who is now a flying instructor with the RAF Reserve, teaching Cambridge University students to fly, has seen his career soar in his 60s. “Age does catch up with you. Your joints play up, my eyesight’s not as sharp as it used to be and I wear contact lenses when I’m competing,” admits the dad of two, explaining how the odd round of golf and a bit of light exercise in the gym represents his none-too-vigorous fitness regime.
Yet for all that, Calvert, a modest, gentlemanly figure and something of a legend within his sport, has won his record-equalling three Queen’s Prize trophies – the sport’s most famous prize – at Bisley in Surrey within the past eight years.
“Understanding how to deal with the stress of competition generally improves with age, even if the body doesn’t. It’s that trade-off, youth against experience,” he says.
Is a fifth gold on the cards as he competes in both the individual event and the pairs competition with Jack Alexander, 42 years his junior?
“Well, you don’t think of the prize, you think of the performance and just doing the best you can,” he says, noting that he will be competing this year at the same Brisbane venue where he won bronze at the 1982 Games. “I don’t suppose anyone else will be able to say that!”
Shooting has been dropped from the programme for Birmingham 2022, but if by chance it returns for the 2026 Games, what likelihood is there of him taking part at 75?
“Goodness, that sounds dreadful,” he laughs. But like the born competitor he is, he’s clearly not ruling it out.
The men’s full-bore rifle is on Tuesday 10 April and the men’s pairs is on Monday 9 April