Italian Katiuscia Spada secured the first gold medal of the final International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup event of the season with victory in the women’s skeet competition in Gabala, Azerbaijan.
The 33-year-old, a World Championship silver medallist in 2003, edged American Morgan Craft in a shoot-off in the final after both competitors had cleared 15 of the 16 targets.
Spada held her nerve, shooting four targets to Craft’s three to ensure she topped the podium.
Craft's second-place finish was, nevertheless, her best-ever ISSF World Cup result.
Britain’s young rising star Amber Hill, who beat Spada’s Diana Bacosi in a dramatic women’s skeet final at the inaugural European Games in Baku in June to secure a Rio 2016 quota place for her country, won the bronze medal.
Poland’s Aleksandra Jarmolinska also produced a stunning performance as she equalled the world record in the qualification round, hitting all 75 targets.
Jarmolinska was able to clinch an Olympic quota spot for Poland by finishing fourth, suffering defeat to Hill in the bronze medal play-off, while Chile's Francisca Crovetto Chadid’s seventh place was enough to earn her country the second available Rio 2016 berth.
The day, though, belonged to Spada, who had produced a solid display throughout the event before she rounded the tournament off with a deserved victory in the final.
“It has been a great match, this is the result of a long preparation period, and of an intense season,” Spada said.
“We have been working hard and this medal pays off.
“The game is getting really competitive.
“I zeroed in during the semi-final and I scored all the targets, and then I missed one clay during the medal match, but luckily I regained concentration in the shoot-off and I made it.”
Spada qualified with a score of 73 in the opening round before she upped the ante in the semi-final, hitting every target to record a perfect 16.
She was then able to oust Craft as the last ISSF World Cup event of the season, which is due to conclude on August 15, got off to a dramatic start.
Around 1,100 athletes from 90 countries are competing in Gabala and there are still 32 Olympic quota places to be decided.
Action in Azerbaijan is due to continue tomorrow with the men’s skeet final which will include Georgios Achilleos of Cyprus, Saif Bin Futtais of the United Arab Emirtaes Kuwait’s Saud Habib, Egyptian Azmy Mehelba, Frenchman Emmanule Petit and Gabriele Rossetti of Italy, who all hit 50 targets out of 50 in today’s qualification round.
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April 2015: Croatian shoots world record on way to ISSF World Cup gold
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