Two new double Paralympic champions were crowned on Wednesday (14 September) – the final day of competition at the Olympic Shooting Centre in Deodoro.
China’s Cuiping Zhang and Iran’s Sareh Javanmardidodmani both won their second gold medals of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
It went down to the wire in the R6 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH1) final with Zhang firing a near-perfect 10.8 on the last shot of the final to snatch victory from the hands of UAE’s Abdulla Sultan Alaryani in an epic Paralympic final.
The P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1) event saw three women progress to the final with Javanmardidodmani wrapping up her second gold medal in what was also another enthralling final for fans.
Alaryani – the defending Paralympic champion – and Zhang – the R8 (women’s 50m 3 positions SH1) gold medallist – leapt out to a strong lead ahead of a high-profile field featuring seven athletes who have all previously reached a Paralympic final (the exception being newcomer, John Joss from the USA).
Alaryani and Zhang were dominant throughout the match, often exchanging the top spot, but the Emirati had a 0.6 point edge over Zhang heading into the last two shots of the final to decide gold. Both were guaranteed their third medal at these Games, but it was a question of which colour.
“It was my true thinking that I would just try my best for the last two shots,” Zhang said afterwards.
Alaryani blasted a 10.2 and Zhang struck a 9.8 in the first of the two remaining shots, meaning the Chinese shooter had to overturn exactly one point to overthrow the defending Paralympic champion. It seemed unlikely, but possible.
“I was thinking I already had the gold medal,” Alaryani admitted later.
What happened next was nothing short of spectacular – Alaryani landed an unexpected 9.5 in his final shot leaving the door open for Zhang to swoop in and steal gold.
“The bullet wasn’t like the rest of them. It sounded different,” Alaryani claimed.
Zhang pulled the trigger sending a bullet towards the target, which incredibly landed her a 10.8 (Zhang’s highest score of the match) to record an emphatic victory and secure a second gold medal in Rio.
“I was extremely excited,” said Zhang. “In this competition [R6] I haven’t been a champion for many years, so during the game I just thought ‘I want to enjoy this’.”
It was Zhang’s second gold to go with her silver from R2 (women’s 10m air rifle prone SH1) on the first day of competition (8 September). She will walk away as one the most successful shooters at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“When I got my silver medal, I told myself ‘okay I have just reached my target so now I will just enjoy the rest of my competitions’, but I didn’t expect that I would have two more golden medals!”
Alaryani was openly frustrated that he lost the gold in the dying stages, resulting in a third silver medal for the Emirati.
“Of course I am very disappointed today – the gold medal was in my hands,” he said. “Part of me is happy to win three silver medals, but my ambition is always to get gold.”
Serbia’s Laslo Suranji collected the bronze to go with his gold medal from R8 (men’s 50m 3 positions SH1) on Tuesday (13 September).
“I am more than satisfied! I won gold in three positions [R8], and this bronze is only an extra, so I am very satisfied,” Suranji said.
Swedish superstar Jonas Jacobsson put his best foot forward, but it wasn’t enough to progress to the finals. Jacobsson ends his career as one of the most formidable athletes to ever enter the Paralympic arena. He walks away with a total of 30 Paralympic medals dating back to the 1980 Arnhem Paralympic Games as a 15-year-old.
Double Paralympic champion Veronika Vadovicova executed a perfect 10.9 in the first competition stage to move from eighth into joint sixth with Great Britain’s Matt Skelhon.
Skelhon – the world champion and world record holder – fell off the pace to drop out of the competition in seventh place. Vadovicova soon followed, bowing out in sixth place to cap off a stellar Paralympic campaign.
After an inspiring bronze medal performance by Mckenna Dahl in the R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2) final on Tuesday (13 September), fellow-American John Joss was looking promising to repeat that result. Joss, a first time Paralympian and first time finalist, put in a fantastic performance to finish fifth in a star-studded line-up.
After digging his way back from seventh, South Korea’s Jinho Park was unlucky to miss the medals, finishing fourth in his fourth consecutive final in Rio.
The final shooting event for Rio 2016 witnessed an impressive display of precision and timing with Javanmardidodmani setting a new P4 finals Paralympic record (189.5) en-route to winning her second gold of the Games. The silver medal went to China’s Chao Yang who finished with 186.5 points ahead of young Ukrainian Oleksii Denysiuk on 160.8.
“I’m very happy that I could get a very good result in this event,’ said Javamardidodmani. “Besides a gold medal in 10m air pistol, one of my biggest wishes was to get a gold medal in 50m as well and today I achieved this!”
Javamardidodmani and Yang were having a great tussle for top spot with a margin of no more than 1.3 points splitting the two until the 18th shot when Yang misfired with a 7 allowing the Iranian to capitalise on his mistake to take the lead.
“I had some mistakes – I shot a seven and it wasn’t that bad, but then when I saw that I got another seven I just stopped thinking’, said Yang, “I thought ‘what happened to me?’”
Javanmardidodmani was one of three women in the P4 final along with Ukrainian Olga Kovalchuk and Macedonia’s Olivera Nakovska-Bikova.
Rio has staged the most successful Paralympic Games for female shooters in mixed competitions, but Javanmardidodmani was none the wiser.
“I think it was the sixth or seventh time that I’m having this experience [beating the men] so it wasn’t that new to me,” she said. “But generally speaking it’s an amazing feeling and I believe the one who deserves the best will get the best.”
Yang was impressed by the Iranian’s control and consistency and she will now be on his radar for future competitions.
“She is excellent – her scores are always at the same level and never up and down,” Yang said. “She will be my next target!”
Yang’s silver medal makes it two medals from three events having won gold in P1 (men’s 10m air pistol standing SH1).
“I’m very happy because it means after so many years that I didn’t waste my efforts,” Yang said. “But I think maybe if I shot better in two of my shots, the colour of my medal might be different.”
Denysiuk rounded out the podium in third place at his first Paralympic Games having only taken up the sport two years ago.
“I really hoped for the best, but I didn’t expect to win anything,” said the 27-year-old.
Denysiuk said he would go forward more experienced and better equipped.
“It’s a completely different feeling here at the Paralympics,” said Denysiuk, “I didn’t really have time to adopt to these new feelings, but now I will know better.”