Serbia claimed the men’s and women’s 10 metres air pistol double here today as Damir Mikec and Zorana Arunovic won the respective titles to increase their country’s European Games gold medal tally in the sport to three.
Following Andrea Arsovic's victory in the women's 10m air rifle yesterday, Mikec fended off the challenge of Portugal’s Joao Costa and Slovakia’s Juraj Tuzinsky, who took silver and bronze respectively, after Arunovic had won gold ahead of second-placed Spaniard Sonia Franquet and Belarus’ Viktoria Chaika in third.
The 50-year-old Costa seemingly had the men’s gold medal in his grasp as he pulled back a deficit of 4.1 points on long-time leader Tuzinsky within the space of just four shots, leaving the Slovakian in the bronze medal position.
But with the Portuguese holding only a 0.1 point advantage over Mikec going into the final two shots, scores of 10.4 and 10.0, compared to the Serbian's 10.7 and 10.1, proved not to be enough for last month’s double World Cup winner.
"The final was incredible,” said Mikec, a four-time World Cup gold medallist.
“I was very bad in the beginning - I shot an 8.0 and after I said to myself, 'just relax and give your best' and then I started to shoot like I know I can.”
Ukraine’s Pavlo Korostylov, who struck gold at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, had to settle for fifth but did have the consolation of securing a quota place for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, former world champion Arunovic rolled back the year’s to blow away her rivals in the women’s event.
Spain’s Franquet finished 3.2 points behind, while the efforts of bronze medallist Chaika secured a Rio 2016 quota place for Belarus.
Going into the final four shots, Franquet held a 0.5 point advantage but, with the crowd winding up a familiar handclap before each shot from that point, the Spaniard recorded her lowest scores in a sequence of 9.0, 8.8, 9.1 and 9.7, while Arunovic, whose fist-pumping was a feature of the final, fired 10.0, 10.7, 9.5 and 10.1.
"I can't say I thought I was going to win this, my season has been really rocky," said Arunovic, the 2010 world champion.
"By the fist pumps, you could see it was really important for me to shoot well and to win.
"I didn't feel confident when I started the final and I was really stressed.
"When I saw that I had an opportunity to win a medal, and then gold, I gave everything I can.
"By winning this gold medal I did not get a quota place, because two of my team mates already have a quota place, so I will have to try my luck in the 25m pistol."
In the day’s one other event, Russia’s Alexey Alipov hit 34 targets in succession as he recovered from a poor start to win gold in the men's trap and earn Russia a quota place for Rio 2016.
Slovakian world champion Erik Varga was the only competitor to hit all 15 targets in the six-strong semi-final, and missed only one shot in the final, but could only grab silver as Alipov, a gold medallist at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, recorded a perfect 15.
Italy’s Giovanni Pellielo won the bronze medal match against Great Britain’s Ed Ling.
The shooting action continues tomorrow with the men's 50m rifle prone and mixed team trap events.
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