Teamwork without borders on the range in Nanjing
For the first time ever on the Olympic stage, the air pistol and air rifle competitions featured a mixed international team format which allowed the young athletes to get a chance to know each other and forge links across borders and languages.
10m air pistol mixed teams
“We’ll definitely have something to talk about next time I see him. He’s a really good team-mate,” said Teh of Ahmed, after the pair finished second in the 10m air pistol mixed international team event on 21 August at the Fangshan Training Base.
That final was a festive affair and the crowds and competitors all contributed to the atmosphere. Svechnikov even entertained the crowds with his best Michael Jackson dance moves in between shots!
Emotions hit fever pitch when Nencheva fired the winning shot, letting out a cry of joy before she and her partner disappeared in a crowd of supporters, coaches and team-mates.
“It’s easy to explain our reaction,” Svechnikov commented. “When you’re the best in the world it feels incredible and it’s normal to be a bit overexcited.”
The athletes remarked that the new format, in which each team was made up of a man and a woman from different countries, encouraged them to give their very best not only for themselves and their country but also for their new friend and team-mate.
“The format for the shooting was quite difficult but we liked it and we think that it should be used in competitions in the future,” said Svechnikov. “This is a really big honour, not just for me and my teammate, but also for my country.”
The event, and the atmosphere surrounding it, delighted Franz Schreiber, Secretary-General of the International Shooting Sport Federation. “The main aim is to get together as many nations and young people as possible in a spirit of friendship so that they have the chance to meet each other,” he explained.
“Furthermore we wanted to get them together in a sporting setting – so that they could develop together in a competitive atmosphere.”
Schreiber likened the one-on-one format to a penalty shootout. “One of the main aims is to make our sport more accessible for spectators and to get them involved,” he continued. “They’re applauding, clapping their hands and they react instantly: our sport needs that.”
10m air rifle mixed teams
The international mixed team 10m air rifle on 22 August offered up a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Istvan Peni of Hungary became the only athlete in Nanjing to win two shooting medals, adding a gold to the bronze he won two days earlier in the men’s individual 10m air rifle competition.
Peni was on incredible form, hitting above 10 shot after shot. Only one of the female shooters could come anywhere near his level and that was his team mate Hadir Mekhimar (EGY).
“I’m holding the strangest thing,” said Peni, gold medal in hand. “I said before that winning bronze was the best thing ever and I really liked that medal, but when I saw my Hungarian teammates holding a gold medal I told myself that I really wanted one too and now I do!”
Viktoriya Sukhorukova of Ukraine and Lu Shao-Chuan of Chinese Taipei came out on top in the bronze medal match, winning 10-6 over Alina Riccardi from San Marino and her partner Andrija Milovanvic of Serbia.
Lasting friendships forged
The two mixed team events helped form friendships across borders that look set to endure long beyond Nanjing 2014.
Fernanda Russo and Jose Santos Valdes Martinez gave their interviews arm in arm after winning silver. They got to know each other earlier in the year and kept in contact, but were “surprised and happy” to be teamed up for the competition.
“She’s a great shooter and she can go on to do big things,” said Martinez of Russo. Returning the favour, she described him as “a good friend and a great partner.”
Like the silver-medal winning duo, Peni and Makhimar said they also planned to keep in touch. “You were really very good. Thank you, this victory is also down to your work,” Peni said to Mekhimar. The Egyptian responded in similar vein, saying, “This is my first medal and I’m really happy. You’re an excellent team-mate.”