Yi Siling Clinches First Gold at Games; Wins Shooting Event
2012 London Summer Olympics
Powerhouse China clinched the first gold medal at the London Olympic Games when their 10m air rifle shooter, Yi Siling, amassed a winning aggregate of 502.9 to leave her competitors in awe at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
Even as Yi clenched her fist in jubilation, Poland's Sylwia Bogacka, who was leading for most of the final, cut a sorry figure after finishing second.
A poor shot of 9.7 in the eighth round cost her the gold, while another Chinese youngster, Yu Dan, grabbed bronze with a combined score of 501.5. Though Yi was the favorite in the event as she is also the World No. 1, Bogacka's superb form in the final round was the talking point at the air-conditioned range, but the 9.7 in the eighth shot did irreparable damage to her gold-medal hopes.
A beaming Yi told the media with the help of an interpreter that it was the happiest moment of her life. Yi, 23, and Sylwia Bogacka had reached the final with near-perfect scores of 399/400 in the qualifying round. But Yi, whose sublime form has seen her winning the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games gold and the World Cup finals gold in 2011, was more determined on Saturday.
She conceded that she was nervous all through the match, but now that the medal was in her kitty, she could look forward to enjoying the fruits of labor. It was a seesaw battle in the finals, with both Yi and Bogacka notching up 10.8 out of a maximum 10.9 off the first shot. A poor 10 saw Yi fall back to second and, with Bogacka continuing to press ahead, she looked an easy winner after the seventh round. The poor 9.7 in the eighth round was a costly blow for the Polish shooter, while a superb 10.7 for Yi resurrected her flagging fortune.
Bogacka took the loss sportingly, saying it could happen to anyone and that no amount of practice prepared you for such eventuality. For Yi, it was an interminable wait after she became the first woman shooter from China to qualify for London at the quadrennial World Championships in 2010.
Yi's joy knew no bounds after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Jacques Rogge, presented her with the first gold medal of the London Games. Soon after the medals ceremony, Rogge acknowledged the growing stature of China in the sporting arena.
Talking about China's first gold at London, he said that the country had made a "strong statement" and their intentions were clear --- to again emerge on top of the medals tally as in Beijing where they clinched 51 gold. The IOC president was quoted as telling the media that, "It's a very good start, a very encouraging start for what will be I believe a very strong showing of the Chinese team here in London."
Even as Yi was basking in golden glory, shooter Bahia Al Hamad became the first Qatari woman to compete at the Games --- finishing 17th in the 10 metre air rifle event. Al Hamad showed no signs of fatigue --- she was the flag-bearer of the teardrop Gulf nation --- as she shot a superb 395/400 to make a telling statement for women from the Gulf region.
Malaysia's eight-month pregnant shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi was concerned about going into labor pains at the Games. But her concerns were unfounded as she stood rock solid during the 10m air rifle competition to score 392 and finish 34th.
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