Top shooters on their road to Rio 2016

A run-down of the current best pistol and rifle shooters hoping to seal Rio 2016 spots when the first 2015 qualifier gets underway from 10-14 July. 05 Jun 2015
A shooter takes aim

Uzbekistan's Server Ibragimov

By Jake Smith | For the IPC

With three World Cups complete and the first 2015 direct qualification opportunity for quota spots for Rio 2016 set for Osijek, Croatia, from 10-14 July, the IPC Shooting season is in full swing.

The current world rankings (as of 1 June 2015) present a new cream of the crop. Find out who some of the key athletes are heading into the most crucial phase of the road to Rio 2016.

Pistol – SH1

Iran’s Sareh Javanmardidodmani is the only finalist from the London 2012 Paralympic Games that sits inside the top three across three individual pistol events on the Rio programme. However Britain’s young-gun Issy Bailey and Ukraine’s Olga Kovalchuk both share the number one ranking with Javanmardidodmani in P2 (women’s 10m air pistol SH1).

The P1 (men’s 10m air pistol SH1) rankings showcase an exciting mix of shooters of all ages and experience. The two youngest contenders, Ukraine’s Oleksii Denysiuk and Serbian Rastko Jokic, aged just 25, are second and third in the world respectively, however it is the more senior shooter, Great Britain’s Stewart Nangle that reigns supreme.

Uzbekistan’s, Server Ibragimov is also certainly one to keep an eye on. He has only been on the international scene since 2014 and remarkably broke the P1 finals world record on his way to winning gold at his first World Cup in Szczecin, Poland in April.

China’s Xing Huang and Chao Yang are the frontrunners in the P3 (mixed 25m pistol SH1) and P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1) with the USA’s Michael Tagliapietra and Nangle chasing hard.

Rifle – SH1

The six SH1 rifle events are packed with talent, with 100 listed athletes all making a bid for Paralympic selection. After finishing 2014 as world No.4 in R1 (men’s 10m air rifle standing SH1) Ukrainian Andrii Doroshenko has since made his way to the top followed closely by Serbia’s Laslo Suranji. Frenchman, Didier Richard and Slovakian Radoslav Morvay round out the top rankings in equal third.

Australia is on top of the world in R2 (women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1). The country’s sole Paralympic shooting medallist from London, Natalie Smith was flawless in her gold medal win in Szczecin. Her next closest rival is fellow countrywoman, and veteran of the sport, Libby Kosmala.

The Aussie’s have some tough competition in Slovakian world champion Veronika Vadovicova who has medalled in every 2015 World Cup in both the R2 and R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1) events. Vadovicova has gone from strength to strength and now owns the R3 finals world record. But Great Britain’s Matt Skelhon’s victory in front of his home crowd at the World Cup in Stoke Mandeville upset what has been a near-perfect season for Vadovicova. Vadovicova and Smith also lead the way in R8 (women’s 50m rifle three positions SH1).

Israel’s Doron Shaziri won Paralympic silver for Israel in R7 (men’s 50m rifle three positions SH1) and is still at the top of his game so far in 2015.

Rifle – SH2

New Zealander Michael Johnson is a repeat offender in the SH2 events winning two gold medals at the World Cup in Antalya, Turkey, in May. Johnson is one of his country’s proudest Paralympians, having represented New Zealand in three Paralympic Games.

Hot on his heels in R4 (mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2) is British youngster, Ryan Cockbill, but Johnson is led in R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2) by Ukraine’s Vasyl Kovalchuk.

The 2015 IPC Shooting World Cup in Osijek kicks off a series of three Rio 2016 qualifiers taking place in 2015. In September, athletes will gather in Sydney, Australia, for the World Cup from 15-19 September. Then from 3-7 November, the World Cup in Fort Benning, USA, will conclude the 2015 calendar.