Ashley Adams was unable to find his pre-Games form in his last two Paralympic shooting events in London this week, ending a disappointing performance by Australia’s athletes.
The Australian shooting team went one better than they had in the Beijing Paralympic Games, Natalie Smith’s bronze medal ensuring we had more to cheer about than our lack of medals in 2008, but it was not as good as had been hoped for.
China topped the shooting medal count, boosted to four golds after Zhang Cuiping won the women’s 50m 3 Position Rifle SH1, her second gold of the 2012 competition. She’d also won bronze, making her the top shooter, closely followed by Park Seakyun of Korea, who won two golds.
Park’s performance helped his country to second in the tally.
Adams qualified 10th for the men’s 50m 3 Position Rifle SH1, five points off a potential finals place, and was 20th in the mixed 50m Air Rifle Prone SH1 event.
In the prone shoot, the harsh natural lighting coming down and hitting the bottom of the target was playing tricks on Adams’ eyes, causing him to unknowingly aim off the centre.
“I realised at the end what it was but it was too late, couldn’t recover from it,” he said, adding that an elbow injury suffered in a farming accident in July had also affected his performance.
“I’ve been treating it here full time but it’s like tennis elbow and in that match it would just start paining me every now and then,” he said. “But I’ve just got to get on with it. Like everything I do, I’ve just got to get on with it.”
The Australian shooting team’s coach, Miro Sipek, described the 2012 team as the best prepared that Australia has ever fielded, and said the London performance was disappointing.
“We have some very talented shooters and I was expecting more from them, not medal wise, but just performance wise,” he said.
Zhang beat compatriot Dang Shibei and Slovakia’s Veronikia Vadovicova, who took silver and bronze respectively in the women’s rifle shoot.
Park’s second gold came in the mixed 50m Pistol SH1 final, where Valery Ponomarenko of Russia added a silver medal to the bronze he won earlier, and Ni Hedong of China took bronze.
The men’s 3 Position gold went to multiple Paralympic medallist Jonas Jakobsson (Sweden), who finally cracked victory in 2012.
Jakobsson has won more medals than anyone in Paralympic history, and had already pocketed silver this week.
But he was clearly shooting for gold, and left it till the last day of shooting to thrill his fans and win his 17th gold in a nine-Games career that has now seen him earn a total of 30 medals.
“If I hadn’t won the gold today, I think I would have finished,” he said. “But now I will take some time off and think about the future.”
Silver medallist Doron Shaziri (Israel) had qualified ahead of Jakobsson but both men later agreed the Swede always had an advantage.
“I had a psychological advantage when I was up to meet the Israeli athlete because I have beaten him in a couple of similar situations before,” Jakobsson said.
Shaziri revealed that’s exactly how it panned out after his rival started with two poor shots in the final but then fought back, added pressure as the final shots counted down and the scores closed.
“It was nerves. It happens,” he said. “The excitement must have got to me.
“I managed to relax throughout until the last three shots but overall Jonas Jakobsson shot better than me and mastered the tension.”
China’s Dong Chao added bronze to his earlier gold medal by coming third in the event.
Abdulla Sultan Alaryani of the UAE won the men’s 50m Rifle Prone SH1 shoot, saying, “It’s a dream … It’s everything for me.”
Spain’s Juan Reinaldo was only 0.2 behind for silver after a close final, and Britain’s Matt Skelhon took the bronze after earlier claiming a silver medal.