RIO DE JANEIRO: Zhang Mengxue got China off the gold medal mark and gave her mum the perfect birthday present at the Rio Games on Sunday, the Olympic debutant winning the women’s 10m air pistol title.
After an assured display of precision shooting at the Deodoro range, the 25-year-old beamed: “It happened to be my mother’s birthday yesterday (Saturday) so this will be the best gift for her.”
The woman from Jinan produced a perfect 10.9 on her 17th shot to comfortably hold off Russian teenager Vitalina Batsarashkina.
“I am so excited,” said Zhang, who only made her international debut last year.
“I am still feeling the competition, I am still in that mood, and winning at the Olympic Games was my goal since I was young. Now I have the medal.”
Saving her best till last after scraping into the eight-shooter final in seventh place she reported: “I was pretty calm for the final actually, because the qualification was a bit tough for me.”
Batsarashkina neatly sidesteppped a potential minefield when asked at the post-event press conference about her thoughts on winning a medal for Russia after all the doping scandal dogging her country’s Olympic build-up.
“I don’t know what to tell you, this is an issue for my country and the anti-doping body, not for athletes.”
In bronze was Anna Korakaki, the first Greek woman to win a shooting medal of any hue in Olympic competition.
“It makes me really proud to win this medal after all these years,” said the 20-year-old who is coached by her father.
“We have good chemistry,” she said.
Zhang grabbed her chance to take the title after her compatriot Guo Wenjun, the champion in 2008 and London 2012, misfired badly in qualifying to miss out on the final.
Another big name missing was the Ukrainian world number one and Athens 2004 champion, Olena Kostevych.
One of the two Russian teens who made it to the final, Ekaterina Korshunova, was the first to fall by the wayside.
She was followed by Serbia’s Bobana Velickovic and Spain’s Sonia Franquet as Zhang moved menacingly into the lead.
Breathing down her neck was Batsarashkina as Egypt shooter Afaf Elhodhod departed, exit stage left.
Mexico’s Alejandra Zavala Vazquez took fourth, leaving Zhang, Korakaki and Batsarashkina to fight out the medals.
With her pinpoint fourth last effort she pulled two points clear, to seal her country’s first of what they will expect to be many golds in Brazil after their opening day’s haul of two silvers and three bronze, not to mention making a mother back home proud.