Joy, despair and new friendships on final day of shooting
22 August 2014 was a day of intense emotions at the mixed international teams 10m air rifle competition.
Peni accomplished his feat only minutes after Agata Alina Riccardi narrowly missed an opportunity to win San Marino’s first ever Olympic medal.
Peni was on fire, scoring in the high-10s shot after shot. Only one other shooter was equal to PENI, and it was his teammate, Hadir Mekhimar (EGY). Together the pair dominated the semi-final 10-5 and the final 10-2 to claim gold over silver medallists Jose Santos Valdes Martinez (MEX) and Fernanda Russo (ARG).
Istvan Peni (right) and Hadir Mekhimar compete during the 10m air rifle mixed international teams competition
“This is the strangest thing that I hold,” Peni said, as he thumbed his medal, adding, “I said bronze is the best, and I liked that one, but when I saw gold in my team-mate’s hand then I said I want one of those as well; and now I have one.”
In a quiet hallway separate from the celebrations, Riccardi was in agony. “I want to cry,” she said, holding back tears and managing a smile.
“I had a terrible problem during the semi-final, everything was blurred and I didn’t shoot very well. It was the first time for me on the finals range, and that’s why I felt a bit shaken.”
San Marino, one of the world's smallest countries, is known for its strong shooting tradition. It previously came close to an Olympic shooting medal when Alessandra Perilli took fourth at the women’s trap final at London 2012.
Riccardi was clearly struggling as she and her Serbian team-mate Andrija Milovanovic fell 10-6 to Viktoriya Sukhorukova (UKR) and Lu Shao-Chuan (TPE) in the bronze medal match.
Competition ends but friendships blossom
The event marked the end of shooting competition at these Games but also the beginning of new international friendships.
Russo and Valdes Martinez were arm-in-arm as they conducted interviews after their silver medal-winning performance. The two have known each other since April and stay in touch via Facebook. They were “surprised and happy” to find themselves paired together in competition.
“She is a very good shooter and she is going to go on and achieve great things,” Valdes Martinez said of Russo. “He’s a very good friend and a very good team partner,” Russo added.
Like Russo and Valdes Martinez, Peni and Mekhimar said they would stay in touch. “You were really, really good and thanks, it was your work as well,” Peni told Mekhimar. “This is my first medal and I’m very happy,” Mekhimar said. “He is a very good team-mate.”