Slovakia’s Veronica Vadovicova and China’s Chao Dong claimed top honours on the opening day of competition on Thursday (8 September) at the Olympic Shooting Centre in Deodoro.
Vadovicova secured one of the first gold medals of the Games after an exhilarating R2 (women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1) final with Chinese pair Cuiping Zhang and Yaping Yan rounding out the podium with second and third respectively.
Vadovicova said she was relieved to be back on top after failing to reach the podium in London.
“I was very upset in London because I wanted to win,” she said. “After the Paralympics I swapped coach, started training more, changed my technique and the results are shown here today.”
Vadovicova started slow with multiple 9’s, while Zhang escaped to an early lead forcing the world champion to overturn a deficit of 2.4 points to remain in contention for gold.
Vadovicova recovered in emphatic fashion shooting a series of near-perfect scores to claw her way back and pinch the lead from Zhang with just two rounds to go.
Zhang topped the qualifications (413.4) and carried her form into the final, shooting a consistent number of 10’s, but a lapse in concentration cost her dearly, relegating her from gold to silver.
“Honestly I am not very satisfied with my performance today because a few shots in the middle rounds didn’t match up to my expectations,” said the London gold medallist.
“I was a little bit nervous and overthinking.”
Despite her disappointment, Zhang was very happy to share the podium with fellow country-woman, Yan.
“To have more than one person from China in the top three is something you always hope for,” Zhang said.
The bronze medal went to 27-year old Paralympic debutant Yan who finished with a total score of 183.6.
“I didn’t expect to get a medal so I am very, very happy. I am still in shock and not realising that I have won a bronze,” said Yan.
“For me, being a disabled person and coming here to Rio and winning a medal really means a lot. It’s great encouragement for myself.”
The men’s defending Paralympic champion, Chao Dong, stormed to victory in the R1 (men’s 10m air rifle standing SH1) with a winning margin of 3.2 ahead of silver medallist from the UAE, Abdulla Sultan Alaryani and South Korea’s Suwan Kim claiming bronze.
Fittingly, Dong scored a perfect 10.9 in the very first shot of the final. His accuracy and precision remained with him throughout the match as he soared to back-to-back victory.
“The way of getting this medal is not at all easy, I feel really lucky,” said Dong.
“Shooting is about controlling your own conditions and it’s about having a stable mind to remain focused.
“It was totally out of my expectation to win the same colour medal in the exact same event.
“My family at home will be very happy because a gold medal at this level is different to any other competition, but if I didn’t win they would also be very happy”.
Alaryani secured silver to win his first Paralympic medal in R1. The Emirati’s performance today puts him in good stead for his three remaining events.
“I am always so happy when I get a medal and it comes with a lot of confidence for my other events this week,” he said.
“Standing events are not my strongest, but having the world record and winning multiple world cups gave me hope that I would do well today.”
South Korea had three participants in the final, but it was Kim who prevailed.
“I am very grateful to myself, but also to the whole country for winning this medal,” he said. “I hope all the other South Korean athletes will follow my suit and win some medals in the Paralympics.”
• Read more about Veronica Vadovicova’s journey to Rio gold in our interview with the Slovakian star.