From nerve-wrecking finals to first ever champions, the Al Ain 2022 Shooting Para Sport World Championships witnessed several moments of glory making it an eventful two weeks at the oasis city of the UAE.
While South Korea took the top position at the medal standings, 15 nations picked at least one gold medal making it a total 31 gold medals won during the November 6 to 17 championships at the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club.
Overall, 23 out of the 54 countries competing claimed a podium finish at the eighth edition of the Worlds. A total of 31 Paris 2024 quota places were also offered to the nations at the championships, including Denmark, Indonesia winning their first ones.
Not just this, there were more talking points that made Al Ain 2022 memorable.
Slovakia’s shooting legend Veronika Vadovicova seemed to have saved her best for the last event of the season. After a scintillating performance at the Chateauroux 2022 World Cup, she displayed yet another dominating show to take two Worlds title and a new world record.
Vadovicova won her sixth gold in a World Championships, and first in Al Ain, in R3 – mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1 defeating Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champion Natascha Hiltrop from Germany. Her 255.2 final score was a new world record, through which she improved by 0.2 her own world record set at the Cheongju 2018 World Championships in South Korea.
Meanwhile, French shooter Tanguy De la Forest displayed an impressive show to clinch two World titles – his first major title - at the Al Ain 2022 Championships. The rifle shooter, who missed out the medals at the last two World Championships in Sydney 2019 and Cheongju 2018, first claimed the gold in R9 - mixed 50m rifle prone SH2 after battling past a strong field that had two-time Paralympic champion Vasyl Kovalchuk for the R4 - mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2 title.
While the seasoned stars stamped their dominance yet again at the World Championships, there were several others who were leaving the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club with special memories of their first World title.
Spain’s visually impaired shooter Ager Solabarrieta Txakartegi recorded an emotional win in the VIP - 10m air rifle VI prone finals for his first World Championships title in Al Ain. Solabarrieta Txakartegi rode on his consistent shooting to take the gold, ahead of Poland's Grzegorz Klos and Croatia's Fran Skracic.
Meanwhile, seasoned star from North Macedonia Olivera Nakovska-Bikova added another feather to her illustrious career – her first gold at the World Championships – winning the P4 - mixed 50m pistol SH1 event shocking a field of world and Paralympic stars including defending champion Oleksii Denysiuk of Ukraine and India’s Singhraj.
Polish shooter Emilia Babska was another shooter who claimed her first gold and she credited it to her routine of practising yoga for the last five years. Babska kept her calm when it mattered the most and held off a field of Paralympic stars including Slovakian legend Veronika Vadovicova, Tokyo 2020 medallists Avani Lekhara from India and Natascha Hiltrop of Germany to take the R8-women’s 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 title.
Moskal’s title defence
Coming into the Al Ain 2022, Barbara Moskal was the clear favourite with already three gold medals and a world record this year and the Polish shooter lived up to the expectations in style.
She was a class apart to emerge the outright winner in the elimination round of the finals.
A couple of 10s put her in commanding position and Moskal held on to it after a close battle with her compatriot Katarzyna Orzechowska to win the VIS - 10m Air Rifle VI Standing finals on 220.9 points.
Korea’s cool boys
The Al Ain 2022 was highlighted by several thrilling finals, but it was the Korean duo who stood out with their steady shooting to propel their nation to the top of the medal standings as the World Championships wrapped up.
Korea, who had ended in fourth place with seven medals at the previous edition in Sydney 2019, produced an improved show to finish with 20 medals including six gold.
While Kim Jungnam opened the nation’s golden account winning the P3 - mixed 25m pistol SH1 finals, debutant Jo Jeongdu won his first World Championships title in an impressive way overcoming a strong field that had Paralympic medallists in P1-men’s 10m air pistol SH1 finals.
In a shoot-off to decide the P3 winner, Kim displayed courage and nerves to pip former champion Oleksii Denysiuk by 1 point after both were tied at 28 in regulation play. The title was Kim’s first individual world title after his Team P3 - Mixed 25m Pistol SH1 gold in Sydney 2019.
Jeongdu, meanwhile, pulled off an amazing win event, ahead Szymon Sowinski of Poland (233.1) and way ahead of Server Ibragimov of Uzbekistan (213.3).
Home favourite Abdulla Sultan Alaryani was a class apart as he displayed dominating show in two of the finals he took part, only to emerge victorious. Just like he started the Al Ain 2022 competition with a gold at R7 - men's 50m rifle 3 positions SH1, he finished it with the R6 - mixed 50m rifle prone SH1 title.
Though he admitted later that there was pressure to perform, he seemed unperturbed – thanks to his spiritual side where he prays a lot – leading throughout only to show that he will be a dominant force at the Paris 2024 Games.
Alaryani, the Paralympic gold medallist in R7, would be now busy not just with his training for Paris 2024 but coaching his team-mates and helping them attain more quota places for UAE.
Italy’s golden duo
Italy’s Gabriele Nanni stole the show in the trap events winning his first individual World title with a world record equalling score of 41 points in the PT3 - mixed trap standing SG-U final. Nanni equalled the score of Spaniard Adrian Becker Castillo who achieved it at Chateauroux 2022 in June.
Italy also took the third place thanks to Nanni’s compatriot and two-time World champion Francesco Nespeca (30).
There was more joy for Italy with their para trap star Oreste Lai defending his PT1 - mixed trap seated SG-S from Sydney 2019 in style.
Lai ended with 39 points, while Iran’s Abdolreza Tavasolikhah and Great Britain’s Keith White settled with 32 and 26 points for the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Complete results from Al Ain 2022 can be found on the World Championships Results Book.