Vadovicova smashes own world record as shooting stars deliver in Rotterdam

First series of finals on Thursday and Friday in the Netherlands see gold medals for Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine 19 Aug 2023
A woman in a wheelchair between two men on a podium
Slovakia's Veronika Vadovicova (centre) set a new world record on her way to gold in the R3 - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1
ⒸRotterdam 2023 LOC
By Jeroen Adriaanse I For World Shooting Para Sport

The shooting Para sport circuit was packed with powerhouses at the European Para Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Going into the first series of finals on Thursday and Friday (17 and 18 August), a star-studded line-up battled it out for glory.

And when it comes to rising to the occasion, there is nobody quite like Slovakia’s Veronika Vadovicova as the four-time Paralympic champion set a world record on her way to securing gold in the R3 - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1.

Vadovicova recorded an overall score of 255.7 points as she went head-to-head with Juan Antonio Saavedra Reinaldo of Spain to decide a thrilling final.

The pair went into the final round with the 40-year-old Vadovicova holding a 1.8-point advantage before she shot a 10.6 and a perfect 10.9 on her last two attempts to fend off Saavedra Reinaldo on 253.3. 

It meant that she beat her own record set at the Al Ain 2022 World Shooting Para Sport Championships by 0.5 points. 

Britain's Matt Skelhon rounded out the top three on 232.3.

“I’m really happy that I broke the world record,” Vadovicova said after the final. 

“I didn’t know about how I was in the competition. I was on the last place, so I didn’t see anything on the screens. I was just focussing on my results and it came together.

“It shows that I’m still in the top of the shooters. A lot of them are doing really good.” 

There is no stopping Moskal

Poland's Barbara Moskal continued her dominance in the vision impaired standing event by retaining her European title in the mixed 10m air rifle standing SH-VI. 

Moskal, also a two-time world champion, won comfortably with a score of 220.6 points ahead of Spain's Ager Txakartegi Solabarrieta on 205.2. David Dulin of France got bronze with 184.8.

Earlier, during the qualification campaign, Txakartegi Solabarrieta had set a new qualification world record with 578.1 - 0.1 points above Moskal’s world record. But the Spanish shooter could not quite replicate his jaw-dropping shots in the final. 

Moskal, meanwhile, admitted to feeling "quite emotional" after her win.

"I'm trying not to cry," she said. "Of course I'm happy with another success. It's always difficult, but going into the competition I put all my efforts to win another gold." 

"Every medal is a big achievement for me. It’s just the love for shooting that helps me. In the end, it doesn’t matter which disability you have. I'm just showing that anyone is capable of everything, no matter what.”

Txakartegi Solabarrieta admitted the nerves got the better of him in a stacked field. 

"I feel a little bit sad because in the qualification I got the qualification’s world record. I know that I can do better than this, but in the final I was very nervous," he said.

"I started very bad, but I went up and up and finally I ended up with a silver. So I'm sad and happy.”

Doroshenko shows perfect precision

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s Andrii Doroshenko demonstrated exceptional skill and focus to secure gold with an overall score of 248.4 points in the R1 - men's 10m air rifle standing SH1. 

Doroshenko, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic silver medallist in R1, led from start to finish in an intriguing final, with Marek Dobrowolski of Poland having to settle for silver on 245.8. 

Denmark’s Martin Black Joergensen made up the top three with 225.1 after missing out on the final round by a mere 0.3 in his first international final. 

“It’s a result of hard work and hard training,” Doroshenko said after his win. “I made some small mistakes, but everything [after] went right.

“It’s a glory to be here and represent Ukraine, also in such difficult times for our country right now.”

Asked how he kept his composure throughout the final, Doroshenko added: "It’s 14 years of experience [competing] in this sport. Competitions, everyday training sessions, that’s why I am always focused.

“The first plan is now to go back home and train hard for the Paralympic Games in Paris next summer.” 

Impressive Tirsek bounces back 

Slovenia’s Francek Gorazd Tirsek failed to reach the R4 podium in last year’s two major events, the European 10m Championships and the World Championships, and was determined to live up to his expectations this time around.

And so he did at the European Para Championships on the shooting range of the Ahoy Rotterdam.

There were 1.0 points separating Tirsek and Vitalii Plakushchyi of Ukraine going into the final round, with Tirsek in the lead. And he never looked like relinquishing it as he went on to win gold in the R4 – Mixed 10m Air Rifle Standing SH2 with 254.0 points. 

Plakushchyi took silver on 253.5, while France’s R4 world champion Tanguy De La Forest picked up bronze with 232.0. 

Tirsek, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic silver medallist in R4, said he was elated with the win after he had to overcome health problems in his build-up to the Championships. 

“This competition was very difficult, so it’s a fantastic win really,” Tirsek said. “I’m very tired now. I just want to go to bed and sleep.

”I know all the competitors as we compete against each other everywhere. It’s really crazy how high the standard is and sometimes you need a bit of luck. 

“But I was superior during the whole final, so I think the gold is well deserved. 

“Now I can look to Paris (2024 Paralympic Games) where my aim is to win the gold as well.”

The shooting programme at the European Para Championships continues on Saturday (19) with three finals (R2 - women's 10m air rifle standing SH1, P1 - men's 10m air pistol SH1 and P2 - women's 10m air pistol SH1) and wraps up on Sunday with two medal events (VIP - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH-VI and the R5 - mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2).

The competition is being streamed live on the European Para Championships website. Complete results from Rotterdam are available here.