Joy, despair and friendships formed at final day of shooting
2014-08-22 18:59:00

NANJING, Aug 22 – Friday was a day of soaring joy mixed with bitter disappointment at the mixed international teams 10m air rifle competition.

Istvan PENI (HUN) became the only athlete at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games to earn two shooting medals, adding a gold to the bronze he won in the men’s 10m air rifle on Wednesday. PENI accomplished his feat only minutes after San Marino’s Agata Alina RICCARDI narrowly missed an opportunity to win her National Olympic Committee (NOC) its 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 they dominated the semifinal 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 teammate’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 and located within north-eastern Italy, is known for its strong shooting tradition.

The NOC nearly won an Olympic medal in shooting when Alessandra PERILLI (SMR) took fourth at the women’s trap final at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

RICCARDI was clearly struggling as she and her teammate, Andrija MILOVANOVIC (SRB), fell 10-6 to Viktoriya SUKHORUKOVA (UKR) and LU Shao-Chuan (TPE) in the bronze medal match.

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 in Friday’s 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 teammate.” Editor:Hiram