Belarus, Serbia and Spain nail first European Games Gold medals ever

European Games · Baku, AZE

On Day 5 of the 1st European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, the first shooting sport medals has been awarded.

This morning, Belarus’ three-time Olympian Vitali Bubnovich collected the Gold medal in the 10m Air Rifle Men event, overtaking Italy’s Niccolò Campriani at the very last shot. A few hours later, the script repeated itself, with Serbian 28-year old Andrea Arsovic prevailing over Switzerland’s youngster Sarah Hornung, who was tied with her rival at 197.3 points after the second to last shot.

Finally, at the open range of the Baku Shooting Centre, Spain’s Fatima Galvez grabbed her first victory of the season, beating San Marino’s Arianna Perilli and collecting the Skeet Women Gold medal.

10m Air Rifle Men

Coming form a World Cup Bronze medal, collected in Munich in the Rifle Prone event last month, 40-year old Vitali Bubnovich claimed the first place of the European Games Air Rifle event after a thrilling finale. Italy’s Niccolò Campriani, in fact, had a 1.1 points advantage after the 19th shot, but hit a disappointing 9.1 on his 20th, letting Bubnovich’s 10.4 be the Gold medal shot, literally.

"I qualified in fifth for the finals, and then in the finals I knew I could prove myself. I will never forget that last shot which made me a champion. To be honest, getting the bronze at the world championship was a big thing and it was unforgettable for me, but I will never forget this 16 June either. Said Bubnovich after the receiving the precious European Games Gold medal.

Anyway Campriani, the London 2012 Silver medallist in the Air Rifle event, tried to see the positive in the defeat: "I'm really happy with the performance. I shot much better than how I did at the Olympics in terms of scores. Stated the shooter. I have been struggling so much with the new format in the finals. The first three shots looked like I was going to make the same mistakes, but something switched and I shot an extremely good final until the end.

The only Olympic quota place up for grabs in this event went to Israel’s Sergey Richter, who finished in 3rd place with a score of 185.5 points. "Finally I reached the quota place I have been trying to get all year and it has not worked. It's amazing to get the quota place and the medal. I have worked really hard for this and I feel like I have made history. I'm much more relaxed now preparing for Rio.

Ukraine’s Oleh Tsarkov, Armenia’s Hrachik Babayan, Russia’s Sergey Kruglov, Germany’s Michael Jancker and Ukraine’s Serhiy Kulish completed the final scoreboard placing 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th, respectively.

10m Air Rifle Women

Another unbelievable ending occurred in the second event of the day, where Andrea Arsovic, the Serbian Air Rifle Gold medallist at this year’s World Cup stage in Fort Benning, USA, battled head to head with an unexpected revelation: 18-year old Sarah Hornung of Switzerland, who managed to smell the European Games Gold medal at her first senior appearance, ending up with a Silver medal and an Olympic slot for her country.

With Arsovic leading the match since the first series, her young opponent avoided the elimination for just two-tenths of point after the sixth series, wrestling her way to the top with an amazing combination of shots in the last three rounds. Tied with Arsovic with only one shot left, Hornung hit an excellent 10.4, getting bested by her rival only by 0.1 points. Arsovic then finished with 207.8 points.

"I'm feeling very good. I must say thank you to my team, particularly my coach, because my preparation for this competition was very strong. It is a first gold medal for Serbia and I'm very happy about that.” The Serbian shooter declared.

"I didn't even really look at the score at that time. I wasn't sure what I needed to win the gold, I just had my head down and concentrated and did my best.” Replied Hornung when asked about the last-shot situation.

The Bronze medal went to Germany’s Barbara Engleder, who displayed some genuine celebration despite placing 3rd: "I never did expect this. It feels like I am in a dream right now. I knew before that I could make the final but being third is brilliant. I'm really happy and excited that this Baku Games could be before the Olympics. To have the same feeling and to do exactly the same as we will during Rio Olympic Games is a pretty good thing for us.”

Following Engleder, two-time 2015 World Cup Gold medallist Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia finished 4th, Daria Vdovina of the Russian Federation finished 5th, Ivana Maksimovic, also from Serbia, ended 6th, Nikola Mazurova of Czech Republic concluded 7th and Kata Zwickl-Veres of Hungary finished 8th.

Skeet Women

In the third and last shooting event of the day, Spanish shooter Fatima Galvez claimed the 1st place in the Skeet Women event, besting San Marino’s Arianna Perilli in the Gold medal match after the two athletes both qualified with 14 semifinal hits.

With Perilli missing four of her first ten targets, Galvez, the Silver medallist at the 2014 ISSF World Championship in Granada, built an early lead, managing to reach the top of the podium with 13 total points against the 11 scored by her opponent.

"I trained a lot for these Games because in my last competition two or three weeks ago, the semifinal was not so good for me and I could only finish third. Since then, I have training more to get ready for this.” Galvez said.

"My confidence is growing, but in shooting you never know what the next day will bring, whether it's going to be a good day for you or someone else.” She concluded.

Despite the loss, the Silver medallist was also pretty satisfied as she collected the first and only Olympic slot at stake in this event, adding it to the one previously earned by her sister Alessandra. ”I’m really happy and honoured to get the first European Games medal for my country. I'm more than happy also because finally I managed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. My sister had already qualified for Rio, but I was missing it and now I have it. It all seems just incredible to me."

In the Bronze medal match Elena Tkach of the Russian Federation beated her teammate Tatiana Barsuk, who previously won a shoot-off against Finnish shooter Satu Makela-Nummela to enter the final phase. In the Bronze duel, Tkach missed only one of the 15 targets of the final, finishing with 14 points against Barsuk’s 11.

Following the 5th placed Makela-Nummela, 2014 World Championship Junior Bronze medallist, Serdag Saadet Kandira of Turkey, completed the semifinal panel of shooters in 6th place.

Tweet of the day:

Italian Pistol shooter Luca Tesconi congratulates with his teammate Niccolò Campriani for the Silver medal.

Instagram of the day:

Whose lucky charm is this?

The shooting competitions at the 1st European Games in Baku continue tomorrow with the 10m Air Pistol Women final, scheduled at 11:00 AM (CET+3); the Trap Men Final, scheduled at 2:30 PM (CET+3); and the 10m Air Pistol Men final scheduled at 5:00 PM (CET+3).

Marco Vettoretti