First-time Olympian Zhang Mengxue secured China’s maiden gold medal of Rio 2016 on Sunday, winning the women’s 10-metre air pistol event to extend China’s gold-medal run in the sport.
Scoring 199.4 points from her 20 shots, the 25-year-old Zhang took the title by a comfortable margin of more than two points from Russia’s Vitalina Batsarashkina, with Anna Korakaki of Greece pocketing the bronze.
Zhang grabbed her chance to take the title after her compatriot Guo Wenjun, the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 champion, underperformed in qualifying to miss out on the final. Also absent was the Ukrainian world number one and Athens 2004 champion, Olena Kostevych.
Establishing her lead midway through the event, Zhang pulled away with a perfect 10.9 shot in the final rounds. Her score is an Olympic record under the new finals format. Ranked fifth in the world, a relieved Zhang saved her best for last after struggling in qualification, where she came in seventh out of eight finalists: “I was pretty calm for the final actually, because the qualification was a bit tough for me.”
“I am so excited,” added the Chinese shooter, who hails from Jinan. “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.”“I was expecting her to win a medal, she has had a good year,” said Korakaki of the newly crowned Olympic champion. A first-time Olympian herself, the young Korakaki is the first Greek woman to win a shooting medal of any colour in Olympic competition. “I am shaking now,” she added. “It is a dream come true. The podium, and it is my first Olympics, and I am 20 years old.”