Al Ain 2021: Abdulla Alahbabi shocks Paralympic champion Kovalchuk

Local athlete denies Ukrainian star a third gold medal in the World Cup and takes hosts UAE to the top of the podium 19 Mar 2021
A man standing behind a man in a wheelchair shooting with a rifle in a shooting range
Abdulla Alahbabi gave UAE the first gold medal in Al Ain in the R9 mixed 50m rifle prone SH2
ⒸAl Ain 2021 LOC
By World Shooting Para Sport

Abdulla Alahbabi shocked two-time Paralympic gold medallist Vasyl Kovalchuk to give the hosts their first gold medal at the Al Ain 2021 World Shooting Para Sport World Cup that kicked off on Thursday (18 March) in the United Arab Emirates.

In a thrilling R9 mixed 50m rifle prone SH2 final on Friday, Alahbabi pipped Kovalchuk by just .8 points as the final scores read 248.8-248. During the elimination round, it appeared as if Ukraine were set to win their third gold — having won two golds on the opening day. However, the UAE player saved his best for the last shot. 

Alahbabi caught up with the Ukrainian at the end of the elimination round with 227.7 points each before Alahbabi recorded 10.7 and 10.4 in the final series. Kovalchuk, a gold medallist at London 2012 and Rio 2016, managed 10.2 and 10.1 to settle for the silver. Italian Roberto Lazzaro with 225.7 points claimed the bronze medal.

This was definitely a special moment for Alahbabi having won at his training ground.

“I am very happy to win the gold in the first competition after the pandemic. This was tough considering that most of our training was suspended and we had to train at home. I will look to secure a quota for UAE in the Lima World Cup,” said Alahbabi, whose efforts broke the Asian record set by Korean Youngjun Jeon in Bangkok 2017.

After two days, Ukraine leads the medals tally with two gold and a silver, followed by UAE with in one gold, Italy one silver and a bronze, Turkey one silver, and Thailand and India one bronze each.  
Ukraine steals opening day show

Earlier, Ukraine dominated the opening day show of the Al Ain 2021 with Oleksii Denysiuk and Yurii Stoiev clinching the two gold medals at stake.

In the first final of the day, Stoiev claimed the gold recording 252.3 points enough to beat Italian Massimo Croci who had 250.6 in R3 mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1. In fact, after the Elimination round, the two were separated by just .6 points. Thailand’s Mala Shabandit with a score of 227.7 points.  

Later, multiple-time World Champion at Sydney 2019 Denysiuk lived up to his billing and overcame Turkey’s Muharrem Korhan Yamac 30-24 to take the gold in P3 mixed 25m pistol SH1. India’s Rahul Jakhar took the bronze with 21 points.

Denysiuk, who qualified on top with 577 points, maintained his lead throughout thanks to his sharp shooting with Yamac catching him briefly in the Elimination Stage.  

Competition is due to continue on Saturday with P1 men’s 10m air pistol SH1, P2 women’s 10m air pistol SH1, R7 men’s 50m rifle 3 position SH1 besides the PT1 mixed trap seated SG-S and PT2 mixed trap standing (lower limb) SG-L to be scheduled for the day.

This is the first World Shooting Para Sport competition in more than one year as the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

A total of 120 athletes from 24 nations will be competing until 24 March at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club, the same shooting range that will host the next World Championships in 2022.

Complete Al Ain 2021 results are available on the World Shooting Para Sport website.