Pistol shooters share Rio spoils
The five pistol gold medals on offer at Rio 2016 were evenly shared, with no one nation dominating events at the Olympic Shooting Centre in Deodoro. Vietnam’s Hoang Xuan Vinh scored a notable achievement in winning his country’s first ever Olympic title, while the Republic of Korea’s Jin Jongoh collected his third straight gold, with Greek, German and Chinese shooters also topping the podium.
Vinh breaks new ground for VietnamHoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam was the first pistol shooter to strike gold at Rio 2016, on the day after the Opening Ceremony. In setting a new Olympic record of 202.5 points, the 41-year-old Hoang won his country’s first gold in Games history and denied Brazil their first gold of the Rio Games, pipping Sao Paulo-based Felipe Almeida Wu to the title by a mere 0.4 points. Wu moved into the lead on the penultimate shot only for Hoang to deny him with an ice-cool final shot that earned him 10.7 points and a place in his country’s sporting history. The last shooter to be eliminated in the final, China’s Pang Wei scored 180.4 to collect the bronze.
Winning this gold medal is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.Hoang Xuan Vinh Vietnam
Vietnam had been waiting for gold since their Olympic debut at Helsinki 1952. All they had to show for their efforts since then were two silvers, won by Tran Hieu Ngan in the women’s 57 kg taekwondo competition at Sydney 2000 and Hoang Anh Tuan in the men’s 56 kg weightlifting event at Beijing 2008.
“I am just happy,” said Wu after claiming Brazil’s first medal of Rio 2016. “There are no words to describe how happy I am. The support from the crowd has been amazing. I heard some people say that it’s not such an important thing in shooting, but I can’t say the same after today. There was a wonderful energy and I am very happy to have had all these supporters behind me. It is just perfect. I hope that the sport of shooting becomes more popular in Brazil. I don’t know how, but I hope people get interested for this sport and start to practise, and I think that is a good thing, to win a medal. I hope it will be good for shooting.”
Zhang gets the ball rolling for ChinaZhang Mengxue opened China’s Rio 2016 gold medal account by beating Russia’s Vitalina Batsarashkina in the women’s 10 m air pistol final, with Greece’s Anna Korakaki taking the bronze.
The qualification round saw Zhang finish a lowly seventh, well behind the 19-year-old Batsarashkina, who topped the standings with a hugely impressive score of 390, which included a final series in which she scored 99 points, hitting the tenth ring with nine of her shots. Six years the Russian’s senior, Zhang hit top form in the final, however, racking up four straight scores of 10.2 and then recording a 10.9 with her 17th shot to move over two points clear of Batsarashkina. Zhang’s final total of 199.4 points was a new Olympic record, with the Russian posting 197.1 to claim the silver.
“I am so excited,” said the Chinese shooter. “I am still feeling the competition. I am still in that mood, and winning at the Olympic Games has been my goal since I was young. I now have the medal. It happened to be my mother’s birthday yesterday, so this will be the best gift for her.” Giving her reaction, Batsarashkina said the thought of winning never entered her mind: “I don’t think about the result until it’s all over. I feel good. It wasn’t the greatest final, but this is the Olympics and that’s that.”
The qualifying round threw up two surprise eliminations, with two-time defending champion Guo Wenjun of China going out along with world number one, Athens 2004 champion and London 2012 bronze medallist Olena Kostevych of Ukraine.
Korakaki trades upTwo days after pocketing her 10m bronze, Korakaki went two better to win the 25m pistol title and earn her country’s first gold medal since Athens 2004. The Greek overcame Monika Karsch 8–6 in the final, this after qualifying first from the eight-shooter semi-final. Switzerland’s Heidi Diethelm Gerber rounded off the podium after beating China’s Zhang Jingjing 8–4 in the bronze medal match.
Korakaki surged into a 6-0 lead in the final and then held her nerve after the German had pulled level at 6–6, with the Greek taking the seventh and final five-shot series 4–3 to clinch a dramatic victory. “That’s a gold and it’s my second medal in my first Olympics. I’m speechless. I’m so happy, my voice is shaking,” said the 20-year-old Olympic champion. “The first 25 shots were good because it’s a bit like Russian roulette with the new rules.”
Korakaki added that she did not feel nervous heading into the gold medal duel: “I was assured of a medal, either gold or silver. The colour was just down to luck. The five shots after she pulled level were crucial. Maybe I just had a bit more luck. I can’t really describe how I feel now. It’s impossible, in English, French or Greek. I just hope this medal is the start of something great.”
Giving her thoughts, Karsch said: “I felt strong before the competition, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold it together once it started. I managed to, though, and I’m very happy I did.” Looking back on the gold medal match, she added: “I was feeling great and shooting well, but I couldn’t hit the target. I don’t know why. When I went 6-0 down I thought it was all over.” Summoning up an impressive comeback, the German made Korakaki earn the title the hard way.
“This is fantastic because the qualification round didn’t go too well, so I’m happy with the result,” said Switzerland’s Gerber, who had this to say about her shootout with Zhang: “There was very little between us and it’s hard to keep shooting round after round, but it’s OK. Four years ago everything was new for me, but I’ve been able to perform better here. I had hoped to make the final. That was my goal, but now I’m here and I’ve won the bronze medal.”
Jin makes it three in a rowJin Jongoh of the Republic of Korea became the first athlete in Olympic history to win three consecutive shooting titles when he successfully defended his men’s 50 m pistol title, beating 10-m champion Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam and Kim Song-Guk of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Victorious at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, after winning silver in the event at Athens 2004, Jin now has four Olympic golds to his name, having also won the 10-m title in London 2012. The only other shooter to have won the same title three times is Germany’s Ralf Schumann, who took gold in the 25 m rapid fire pistol at Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004.
A disappointing fifth in the 10 m event four days earlier, Jin topped the qualifying round before making a faltering start to the final and coming within an inch of elimination when he scored 6.6 with his ninth shot. Quickly recovering his poise in an exciting finale, he put together a series of impressive shots to post an Olympic record of 193.7 and win by over two points from Hoang, who led for most of the way before being reeled in by Jin.
“I did badly in the 10 m so I wanted to do better today. I felt nervous. I’m so glad I did well,” said the three-time champion. “I told myself: ‘Don’t give up. Don’t give up’. I wanted to give up, I was doing so badly, but I said to myself this is my last Olympics. I cannot give up. I have won three gold medals at the Olympics, but this one is the happiest and most valuable because this was the most challenging competition and I was under the greatest pressure.”
Though Rio 2016 was his Games debut, the ambitious Kim revealed he had his sights set higher than bronze: “Only gold counts. I didn’t do as well as I expected to. These are my first Games and I still don’t feel I’m good enough. If I train harder, I think I will do better.”
Germany’s Reitz right on targetGerman policeman Christian Reitz scooped the final pistol gold of Rio 2016 in the men’s 25 m rapid fire. First in qualifying, the 29-year-old Reitz held off his French training partner Jean Quiquampoix, who made sure of the silver after getting the better of China’s Li Yuehong in a shoot-off. The world-record holding Reitz kept a steady hand in the eight-round final, never missing more than one target in each round and winning by four clear shots from his nearest challenger.
Though the Frenchman then went on to edge Li in the shootout for silver, he could not close the gap on the near-perfect Reitz, who sportingly embraced his rival after clinching gold. A bronze medallist at Beijing 2008, the German said: “In Beijing I went in thinking I had no chance, but this year I had a great feeling going into the Games, so it was a little bit easier maybe on the mind.”
“I’m very happy,” said the runner-up. “It’s not a huge surprise for me because I’ve put a lot of hard work into this.” The first Frenchman to win a shooting medal since Anthony Terras in skeet at Sydney 2000, Quiquampoix added that he will be gunning for gold at Tokyo 2020.
German shooters have now claimed five golds and nine medals overall in the rapid-fire shooting events at the Games, more than any other country, with Reitz becoming the third German to win the 25 m rapid fire title, the event in which the legendary Schumann won his three Olympic titles between 1992 and 2004.