Hancock perfect as he and Rhode equal qualification world record and win skeet mixed team gold at World Cup Shotgun in Rabat

Vincent Hancock produced a day of perfection and his partner Kimberly Rhode fell not far short of it as they won skeet mixed gold for the United States on the final day of the ISSF World Cup Shotgun in Rabat after equalling the world record in the morning’s qualifying.

Commentating the previous day on the men’s skeet final, where Hancock recovered from an uncertain start to charge through for silver, Rhode spoke about her excitement over the prospect of teaming up with him in the next day’s mixed event, which will make its Olympic debut in Paris this summer.

Her anticipation proved entirely justified as the 34-year-old triple Olympic champion scored a maximum of 75 in qualifying – with Rhode’s 74 enabling them to match the world record of 149 – before shooting faultlessly again in the final.

Although the 44-year-old Rhode, herself a triple Olympic champion, missed three shots in the final the United States ended up comfortable 45-40 winners over Georgia’s 35-year-old Yaroslav Startsev and 20-year-old Elizaveta Boiarshinova, who was making a first appearance in a major international final.

After both the American shooters started with two sequences of five hits the Georgian pairing found themselves trailing by three hits, but after round three – in which Rhode missed both her reverse targets – they had narrowed their deficit to 22-20.

However three misses from the next four by Boiarshinova – who, like her partner, had missed only one shot in qualifying – tipped the contest firmly towards two of the superstars of the sport, both of whom closed the contest out without blemish.

For both Georgian shooters, this was a first World Cup medal.

Asked how she felt after the final, Boiarshinova told ISSF TV with a smile: “I feel so stressed! Because it was my first final and of course it was stressful, but I am so glad to be here. To shoot in a final for the first time – it’s gorgeous!”

Her team-mate added with a grin: “It’s very cool – I’m very happy!”

Both the gold medallists made it clear that their focus was on the Olympic horizon.

“We’ve been enjoying Morocco, enjoying the competition, doing our very best to take in everything and try to get ready for Paris,” said Rhode, who will seek to contest a seventh Olympics this summer.

Asked about the impending US trials, Rhode, a member of the ISSF Executive Committee, added: “The most important thing is that the USA will be winning those medals and that we have the best shooters representing the country. We all have to do the best we can and let the chips lay where they may.”

Hancock, who set the original mixed skeet qualifying world record in partnership with Austen Smith at last year’s World Championships in Baku - a mark that was matched at the subsequent Asian Games by the Kuwaiti pairing of Eman Al Shamaa and Abdullah Alrashidi - was a picture of calm and confidence in the wake of this latest World Cup gold.

“We tied the world record in qualification,” he said. “My goal here today was just come out and implement what I learned over the last couple of days.

“All of this competition is practice, everything is a stepping stone leading to the Olympics, and trying to get back to the place where we all dream to go.

So I’m thankful and grateful for two medals here. But now it’s home, practice and making the Olympic team hopefully next month. That’s the next competition. That’s where my focus is.”

The bronze medal match produced a more dramatic contest as the Czech Republic 2 pairing of Tomas Nydrle, the 35-year-old 2019 world champion, and 28-year-old Martina Kucerova secured a 42-39 win over the Great Britain team of Emily Hibbs and Ben Llewellin.

Britain led 14-12 after the second round, but an opening miss by Hibbs in the penultimate round put the Czechs into a one shot lead. However a miss by Nydrle with his last shot of the penultimate round sent the teams through to the deciding sequence of four level at 35-35.

Three misses by Hibbs and another by Llewellin meant that Nydrle could afford to miss his final shot without undue concern…





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