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Yifu shoots second gold for China

Erik Kirschbaum | August 14, 2004 20:22 IST

China grabbed the first two gold medals of the Olympic Games on Saturday when Wang Yifu rallied to defeat Russia's Mikhail Nestruev on the final shot in the men's 10-metre air pistol event.

Wang YifuEarlier, his team mate Du Li had won the first gold medal of the Olympics with a remarkably similar triumph in the women's 10-metre air rifle event, coming from behind to knock another Russian, Lioubov Galkina, into second place.

China's perfect two-for-two start on the first day of the shooting competition underscored the confident predictions of Chinese officials, who had said their team should win up to 10 of the 17 shooting medals up for grabs.

Wang, a burly 43-year-old, broke down and wept with tears of joy when as the medal was draped around his neck. He previously won Olympic gold in 1992, taking silver in 1996 and 2000.

"I've represented my country at the Olympics six times and it's very moving to win a gold medal," he said, explaining his uncharacteristic tears.

Wang had trailed throughout the 10-shot pistol final but outscored his Russian rival, who was standing just to his left, on the last shot to win with a total of 690.0 points to 689.8.

Nestruev, the European champion who had set an Olympic record of 591 points in qualifying earlier on Saturday, took the silver while his compatriot Vladimir Isakov won bronze.

Sydney gold medallist Franck Dumoulin of France did not even reach the eight-man final, stumbling in the qualifications.

Wang appeared to be heading for yet another silver medal through the final round as Nestruev, 35, hit the bullseye on five of his first eight shots.

Nestruev was still leading by a full point after the eighth round. But Wang outscored him by 10.3 to 9.3 on the penultimate shot to even the score at 680.1, sending a jolt of electricity through the big crowd.

Maintaining a poker face, Nestruev shot first in the final round and scored 9.7.

Wang, breathing heavily, put his pistol back down for a moment then looked up, aimed and scored a 9.9 to beat Nestruev and set an Olympic final record.

"I didn't know we were tied," said Wang. "When the stress of the competition is the highest you have to maintain the highest level of concentration."

Blond Nestruev, casually attired in jeans, was gracious in defeat.

"One has to admit that experience prevailed," Nestruev said. "It doesn't always work out the way you want it to."

(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert)

Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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