Shooters smashed records with some incredible displays of marksmanship during the Paralympic Games over the weekend, so much so that even a record-equalling score wouldn’t guarantee a place in the finals.
Australian Bradley Mark bore the brunt of the highly competitive field, shooting a perfect score to qualify for one of his events but not getting a place in the finals for it.
In another event, Mark and team mate Jason Maroney were among seven athletes in a shoot-off for a finals berth, Maroney making the grade but Mark just missing out.
Mixed 10m Air Rifle Standing SH2
Jason Maroney proved our best performer of the weekend, being the only Australian to shoot in a finals event after successfully competing in the shoot-off for the last three spots of the mixed 10m Air Rifle Standing SH2.
He held on to finish seventh overall with a score of 702.6 in an event won by Korean Kang Juyoung, who shot 705.5, a new record.
Maroney believed he could have done better if he hadn’t had to endure the shoot-off prior to the final.
“It’s like I’ve already shot one final just to make the final. It’s just tough,” he said.
Kiwi Michael Johnson, who’d qualified equal first with a perfect 600, ended up in a shoot-off for silver, but was pipped by an excellent shot of 10.8 by Slovenian Gorazd Tirsek, who achieved the feat with a borrowed rifle after his had malfunctioned earlier in the competition.
Aussie Luke Cain had qualified 27th.
Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH2
Bradley Mark was doubly disappointed over the weekend, also coming close to making the final of the incredibly competitive mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH2 event.
He was one of 10 shooters who qualified with perfect record-equalling scores of 600 but only the best eight could make the finals, and the Aussie was two bulls short.
The event was won by Ukraine’s Vasyl Kovalchuk ahead of Raphael Voltz (France), who beat bronze medallist James Bevis (GB) in a shoot-off. New Zealander Michael Johnson was only 0.2 back in fourth.
Kovalchuk’s win wasn't certain until his last shot, which he knew was decisive. He lined up but then dismounted the rifle, saying he didn’t feel right, but when he took aim a second time he was spot on.
Jason Maroney and Luke Cain qualified 27th and 28th respectively.
Maroney said this was “the worst I’ve ever shot in international competition in six years ... I really don’t know what happened.”
Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1
In the SH1 version of the prone event, all eight finalists had shot perfect 600 scores. Frenchman Cedric Fevre set a new world record of 706.7 to win gold, ahead of Matt Skelhon (GB) and Zhang Cuiping (China), who had already won gold on the first day of shooting in London.
Veteran Libby Kosmala dropped just three shots, leaving her back in 24th in her last Paralympic Games after first competing for Australian in 1972.
“I haven’t had a medal for a few years in the Paralympics. It would’ve been nice here but never mind, that’s life,” she said.
Ashley Adams and Natalie Smith, who earlier won bronze in the women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing, finished 16th and 22nd respectively.
Men’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1
The men’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 was another cracker. Winner Dong Chao of China equalled the qualifying world record of 596 on his way to the final, three points ahead of the original record setter, Jonas Jakobsson of Sweden.
The highly experienced Swede, who has won 29 Paralympic medals in a long career, shot 103.5 for the final but so did 26-year-old Dong, who showed he is a force to be reckoned with.
A shoot-off for the bronze went for an unprecedented three shots, showing how close the competition was. Germany’s Josef Neumaier got the better of Korea’s Lee Seungchul. Neumaier, 54, last won a Paralympic medal 12 year ago.
Again, Ashley Adams was disappointed at his qualifying, placing 15th, well below the form he’d shown leading up to the games.
Olivera Nakovska-Bikova took gold in the women’s 10m Air Pistol SH1, dominating the competition to finish with a world record score of 475.7. Her gold was Macedonia’s first in a Paralympic Games. Silver went to Marina Klimenchenko (Russia) and bronze to Sareh Javanmardidodmani (Iran).