Slovakia’s Kristina Funkova broke into tears after her final shot. She cradled her rifle, her coach comforted her and then she turned to face the spectators.
The 16-year-old was then introduced as the R9 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH2) world champion and new world record holder.
Her victory made for an emotional ending to the 2018 World Shooting Para Sport Championships on Friday (11 May) in Cheongju, South Korea.
The teenager had barely got to grips with the medals ceremony procedure when she was overcome by emotion, bursting into tears on the podium.
“She is very nervous and very, very happy,” said her coach Milan Golena, who also coaches his wife and double Cheongju 2018 world champion Veronika Vadovicova. “When she got here, winning gold was her dream. She kept training, training, training.”
She beat out Ukraine’s Vasyl Kovalchuk, who won the event in March’s World Cup in Al Ain, UAE; and he also scored the highest mark during qualifications on Friday. Italy’s dual-sport athlete Pamela Novaglio - who also competes in Nordic skiing – won the bronze medal.
The R9 will debut as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, and Funkova’s win means her country has claimed an early quota slot.
Funkova was impressive throughout the final as she held the lead from start to finish. Her final score of 250.7 broke the world record, which was established last November at the Bangkok World Cup in Thailand.
“She has been shooting for two years,” Golena said. “In Slovakia we had a camp for disabled people, and some coaches went to the camp and saw her.
“In camp, she was shooting very good. And I told her to come to our training, and she tried and kept training and training.”
In the final day’s other event, United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Abudulla Sultan Alaryani won the R7 (men’s 50m rifle three positions SH1).
Alaryani overcame sickness to become a double world champion in Cheongju, but it was difficult to tell that the UAE athlete had spent the last few days battling a fever and vomiting.
Alaryani took complete control of the R7, consistently shooting near the 10-ring in the kneeling, prone and standing positions.
South Korea completed the podium, with Jinho Park taking silver for his third overall medal in as many days. Compatriot Jangho Lee took the bronze.
“In each shot I was coughing and trying to fight so that I could aim right,” Alaryani said. “But because I have the will, and if there is a will there is a way. And I trust that I can push myself to the max to achieve.”
“I specialise in this competition, and I was expecting the gold in this among the other competitions,” Alaryani said. “The key challenge was the air flow, and the air was difficult for all the competitors.
“I am very happy and proud of my achievement because this is a World Championships, and such a win is an indicator to see the readiness of the competitor and the other shooters preparing for the Paralympic Games.”
The win also broke his silver streak in the R7, after finishing in second at Rio 2016 and the 2014 World Championships.
He jumped into an early 10-point lead after the kneeling position, and maintained that distance over the field to claim gold.
The real battle was for silver.
Slovakia’s Radoslav Malenovsky slipped from silver medal position to fourth after an 8.3 shot, allowing Park to take over.
“It does not matter what colour the medal is. It is the effort and the score, and how much more I can improve myself,” Park said.
“This experience will give me a boost for the next time I go to another match.”
Highlights and photos from all eight days of Cheongju 2018 can be found on World Shooting Para Sport's Facebook page.
Complete results are available here.