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Joy and sadness for island's golden boy
A TOP marksman who became a national hero after winning his country’s first ever gold medal said his late mother inspired him to win the title.
Simon Henry, 42, who works at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, won two silver and one gold medal in shooting for St Helena during the XV International Natwest Island Games.
It was the first time the island of just 5,000 people in the South Atlantic Ocean had ever won a silver or gold medal.
He received congratulations from the governor of St Helena and has twice been in the island’s newspaper, The Sentinel.
But just days before the contest, he heard that his mother Pam, 59, had died after a 10-year battle with multiple sclerosis.
He said: “I was due to go to St Helena in November to spend time with her and unfortunately the bad news came on June 25.
“Life kind of stopped but I had the support from my family back home and they said my mum would have wanted me to go to the games. So I went for her.”
“She supported me and went to three games, including in 1999 when I won bronze, and she helped me to buy my first rifle.
“I dedicated my gold medal to her. I felt she was there at the games, like a guardian angel.”
Mr Henry won silver in both the individual and team 50m air rifle shooting event and gold in the individual 10m event at the games in Bermuda last month.
During the 10m event, he had to fire 60 shots in an hour and 45 minutes in 33°C heat, receiving maximum points for hitting a bull’s eye the size of a full stop.
He thought he was out of contention and as results were not announced at once he went to his room and turned on a computer.
He said: “When I saw that I had won the gold it was electrifying.
“It was like when guys are in the bar and their football team scores. It was a rush of adrenalin through my body.”
Mr Henry has become the talk of his island, a British Overseas Territory, but due to work, he cannot make the five-day journey back until November.
He said: “Everyone on St Helena is in high spirits. It has lifted the island. I have got goose bumps just thinking about going back.”
Mr Henry was born on the island and moved to London in 1999.
He worked in a warehouse and took a computing degree. before moving to Headington, Oxford in 2011 to work as an IT support analyst at the John Radcliffe.
Mr Henry, who has a daughter Nicole, 17, took up shooting, the national sport of St Helena, aged 21 and now trains in Beckley.
The gold has qualified him for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.
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