European Para Championships: Top five moments

The talking points from the shooting Para sport action at Rotterdam Ahoy in the first edition of the multisport event in the Netherlands 25 Aug 2023
A group of five male and female rifle shooters in wheelchairs in a shooting range
The Rotterdam Ahoy hosted four days of shooting Para sport events in the first edition of the European Para Championships
ⒸRotterdam 2023 LOC
By Jeroen Adriaanse I For World Shooting Para Sport

From record-setting events to eye-catching performances, the first edition of the European Para Championships offered thrills, upsets and brilliant individual showings. Here are the five talking points from the competition. 

A star-studded line-up and excellent facilities at the shooting range of the Rotterdam Ahoy provided the perfect stage for some displays of glory, making it an eventful four days in shooting Para sport. 

New world records

Slovakia’s Veronika Vadovicova added another golden line to her illustrious CV after winning gold in the R3 – mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1 with a world record of 255.7 points. 

It was a moment of magic produced by the four-time Paralympic champion. With a perfect score of 10.9 on her last attempt in the final, Vadovicova smashed her own record set at the Al Ain 2022 World Championships by 0.5.

It would be the first of three world records broken in Rotterdam, as the 23-year-old Iryna Shchetnik of Ukraine stunned the field in the R2 - women's 10m air rifle standing SH with a record-breaking score of 252.0 - smashing Avani Lekhara's previous record mark of 250.6 set at the Chateauroux World Cup in France last year. 

Meanwhile, France's Pierre Guillaume-Sage also impressed with a world record in the R5 - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2. He registered an incredible score of 256.5 to break the record mark of 255.8 set by Serbia's Dragan Ristic at the Euros in Belgrade, Serbia five years ago.

No stopping Poland in VI

The Championships in Rotterdam also saw seasoned stars stamping their greatness, while new champions stepped into the limelight with their shooting skills. In the visual impaired classes, Poland asserted their dominance with top accolades for Barbara Moskal and Katarzyna Orzechowska.

Moskas, also a two-time world champion, secured gold in the mixed 10m air rifle standing SH-VI after registering an overall score of 220.6 points. It also meant she retained her European title in a discipline she has made her own since it became a shooting Para sport class in 2019.

But things got even more interesting in the VIP class. The Polish outlet stepped up their game even more in a closely contest final in the VIP - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH-V , with Katarzyna Orzechowska leading an one-two to win gold on 245.0 points. Compatriot Moskal had to settle for silver on 243.5 this time around.

Top of the medal table

The results in the visual impaired classes also ensured Poland topped the leaderboard with the most medals won overall and the most gold medals after four action-packed days of competition.

With a total of six medals (two gold), Poland beat Ukraine by a small margin. Ukraine won five medals (one gold) in total, with Slovakia rounding out the top three of the medals table on two (one gold).

Following this impressive feat, the Polish team will now hope to carry this momentum into the Lima 2023 World Championships that are set to take place next month (17-29 September).

And while Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia took the podium positions at the medal standings, an impressive total of ten nations - from 30 countries participating in the competition - bagged at least one medal, making it a total of 27 medals won at the shooting range of the Rotterdam Ahoy.

The road to Paris 2024 

With just over a year until the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, the competition also served as an important stop on the road to the Games for all shooters. 

The Euros offered the opportunity to earn quotas for Paris 2024 and the chance to compete at the next Paralympic Games. Five direct slots were distributed to National Paralympic Committees through the efforts of the top ranked male and female athletes across the events.  

Italy, Lithuania, Ukraine, Turkey and Slovenia all obtained a qualification slot for the Games in Paris next summer. 

Although the slots are not individually distributed to athletes, Lithuania’s Raidema Bucinskyte admitted to be proud to have secured a quota place for her country. Bucinskyte won silver in the women’s 10m air pistol SH1 final.

“For me, it’s very hard to believe. I think that I’m still dreaming and I still have to wake up. I still don’t realize it,” Bucinskyte said.

“I’m not so strong, these competitors are all world champions, Paralympic champion. I can’t believe that I was able to win a medal here and earn a quota for the Games in Paris.” 

Dutch inspiration at the shooting range

The R5 - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2 wrapped up the action in Rotterdam with most participant athletes (35) and nations (17). Joep van Lankveld was the sole Dutch representative and hopes this year’s Championships will help to boost the image of the sport in the Netherlands.

“This is such a big competition and really gives a platform to some of the lesser-known events. People who have come to see us in action will now have a better understanding of what this sport is all about. That’s already amazing,” Van Lankveld said. 

With his friends and family cheering him on from the stands, the 34-year-old Van Lankveld finished in 20th place after the qualification phase. He hopes to inspire the future generation of Dutch shooters. 

“It’s a shame I’m the only shooter with a disability at this level in the Netherlands right now, but shooting Para is growing and I hope to see more talented youngsters take on the sport in the near future.” 

His goal is to qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, with the World Championships in Lima, Peru providing him with another opportunity to secure a quota place. 

“This has been an incredible preparation for the Worlds. I’ve been doing this sport for ten years on the international stage and I really want to make it to the Games at least once. I hope I’ll be able to pull it off.”

Complete results and all information about the European Para Championships can be found here.