China's Yang Qian claims first gold in Tokyo

Yang Qian - Credit: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

China’s Yang Qian outlasted the field Saturday in a nail-biting final in the women’s 10-meter air rifle competition, winning the first gold medal of the 2020 Olympics.

Anastasiia Galashina, competing for the ROC, led Yang 231.4 to 231.3 heading into the final two shots. Galashina doubled the lead with a 10.8 on her next shot to Yang’s 10.7. But Galashina fired an astonishingly low 8.9 with her last shot, a few seconds before Yang clinched gold with a pedestrian but sufficient 9.8, her worst shot of the 24 she took in the final.

Switzerland’s Nina Christen took bronze.

U.S. shooter Mary Tucker finished sixth, digging herself a hole in the second of two five-shot sequences in the final but shrugging off pressure to fight off two eliminations while music blared in the Asaka Shooting Range.

Galashina and South Korean shooter Kwon Eun-Ji took the lead after the first five-shot sequence with a score of 52.5. Tucker started with a nearly perfect 10.7 and finished the series in third, 0.2 points back, but she fared considerably worse in the second series, scoring just 50.5 for a 10-shot total of 102.8, far behind any of her six 10-shot sequences in qualifying.

After those two sequences of five shots each, the competition moves to pairs of shots, with the lowest-placed shooter is eliminated after each. Tucker opened with a perfect 10.9, easily staving off the first elimination. In the second pair of shots, she fired a 10.5 and another 10.9, forcing a shootoff with Kwon. The two shooters again found themselves tied after what’s supposed to be a single-bullet shootoff, each scoring a 10.4. Tucker then shot first on the next bullet and nailed it with a 10.8, while Kwon could only answer with a 10.5. 

Tucker’s deficit behind France’s Oceanne Muller, though, was too large for her to overcome, and the 20-year-old American was out of the competition. Muller was the next shooter out, finishing fifth.

Earlier Saturday, Tucker was third in qualification, averaging 10.523 points per shot for a total of 631.4. Norway’s Jeanette Hegg Duestad was first with 632.9, followed by South Korea’s Park Hee-Moon with 631.7. Scores are cleared before the final, and Park was the first shooter eliminated.

Another American collegian (at the time), Ginny Thrasher, won this event in 2016. She did not qualify for the Olympics this time around.

Like Thrasher, who competed for West Virginia, Tucker came into the Olympics as an NCAA smallbore, air rifle and team champion, competing for Kentucky. Unlike Thrasher, Tucker already had made a splash internationally, winning the New Delhi World Cup less than a week after her NCAA accomplishments. 

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