Tension all the way as young guns impress in the women’s shooting

Europe’s top young female sharpshooters kept their cool under pressure in Nanjing, with Poland’s Agata Nowak securing gold with her final shot in the 10m air pistol event and Switzerland’s Sarah Hornung doing likewise in the 10m air rifle.

Nerveless Nowak

Having won a tiebreaker to snatch the last available slot in the women’s 10m air pistol final, Poland’s Agata Nowak maintained her concentration to win an unlikely gold.

Aside from her rivals, Nowak also had to contend with lots of noise in the arena, this being the first international competition to allow cheering in the audience and the playing of music during shooting, in line with modifications made by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) following the London 2012 Olympic Games

After making a strong start in the final, scoring over ten with four of her first six shots, Nowak hit a perfect 10.9 with her 16th shot and rounded off with a 10.7 to finish on a total of 196.9 points.

The one person who could deny the Pole the gold was Russia’s Margarita Lomova, who was the last to fire in every round. Lomova missed her chance, however, hitting only a 7.7 – her lowest score of the final – to finish with a total of 194.4 and the silver medal. The bronze went the Republic of Korea’s Minjing Kim, who amassed 175.4 points.

“My heart was pounding. I have no words to describe it,” said Nowak, who admitted that she had no idea how she overcame the pressure. “But you must learn to shoot in this noise. I didn’t expect to go from eighth place in qualifying to first in the final.”

Remarkably consistent throughout the event, Lomova scored over 10 with all but three of her first 12 shots, only to lose her way right at the end.

“I thought my [9.7] shot in the final round would be enough, but Nowak’s next shot was a 10.7,” Lomova explained. “A 10.9 is the best shot I can shoot, and that last shot demanded it.”

Despite losing gold on her last shot, she was thrilled with her silver: “It’s been very hard to train for this. All the time I’m shooting. To win silver is incredible.”

Late surge proves golden for Hornung

Switzerland’s Sarah Hornung was at her very best as she emerged victorious from a keenly contested women’s 10m air rifle competition at the Fangshan Shooting Hall.

Never dipping below ten after her third shot, Hornung racked up 207.8 points to edge out Singapore’s Martina Lindsay Veloso by 0.6 points.

A mere 0.7 points divided the two as they went into the final round, but the Swiss shooter stayed calm, firing a 10.5 to put the gold beyond Veloso’s reach.

Speaking afterwards, the 18-year-old champion said she focused on blocking out the crowd noise and the pressure exerted by Veloso, who made an electrifying but ultimately fruitless charge for gold.

“I knew that a medal was there, but I didn’t know which one,” commented Hornung. “I just knew if I could fight again, I would reach it. I completely isolated myself, and I didn’t listen to the others or to the speaker. I just did my thing.”

Germany’s Julia Budde looked to have the silver medal wrapped up following a remarkable run between her 13th and 17th shots, the high point of which was a perfect 10.9 on shot No16.

“My heart was beating. It’s not so often that I hit a 10.9,” Budde later said.

The 14-year-old Veloso, who went into the competition as favourite after winning gold at the 2014 World Cup in Munich and the 7th Asian Championship in Kuwait, nevertheless surged past the German with scores of 10.5 and 10.8 series on her 17th and 18th shots, briefly raising her hopes of another victory.

“After winning those other medals I had to start from ground zero and forget about all those medals I won before this,” Veloso said. “I really had to focus on this competition and not think about anything else.”

Try as she might, though, the Singaporean could not dislodge Hornung, who said of her win: “It’s so cool. I didn’t expect to have this kind of success.”