Belarus’ Vitali Bubnovich claimed a surprise victory in the men’s 10 metres air rifle on day four of the European Games, beating Italy’s Olympic champion Niccolo Campriani into second place.
Bubnovich had barely managed to qualify for the final and even when he regained some of his form late in the evening to close the gap between him and Campriani, the Italian still had a significant advantage of 1.1 points.
But the pressure was seemingly too much for Campriani who faltered at the very last shot of the evening, scoring 9.1 on the computerised system while Bubnovich snatched away what should have been an easy victory for the Olympic champion with a score of 10.4.
Bubnovich’s win at the European Games with a total of 206.6 points also secured his qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“I feel like I am the happiest man in the world right now,” he said. “I got the ticket to Rio 2016 and will do my best to get in the men’s 50 metres rifle 3 positions as well.”
“I qualified in fifth for the finals, and then in the finals I knew I could prove myself. I will never forget that last shot which made me a champion.
“To be honest, getting the bronze at the world championship was a big thing and it was unforgettable for me, but I will never forget this 16 June either.”
Sergey Richter of Israel won the bronze, the first medal of the Games for his country, while he too claimed a quota place for next summer’s Olympic Games.
The women’s 10 metres air rifle final also saw the eventual winner, world number two Andrea Arsovic of Serbia, take the gold from Switzerland’s Sarah Hornung with the very last shot.
Arsovic led through the initial stages but a slip halfway through enabled Youth Olympic champion Hornung to reduce her two point deficit. But that effort was not enough to prevent the Serbian from accurately shooting her last target to score 10.5 points in comparison to Hornung’s 10.4.
Germany’s Barbara Engleder took the bronze medal.
Elsewhere, a controversial decision gave wrestler Anzhela Dorogan of Azerbaijan gold in the women’s 53kg category over Poland’s Roksana Zasina who finished the bout seeping blood from a head injury sustained in the semi-final round.
The decision came in the closing stages of the final when at 2-2, Poland’s coaches felt their girl had completed a wheeling motion against the Azeri athlete which should have taken the score to 4-2 in her favour.
No such points were given, however, and a subsequent appeal by the Polish delegation was rejected, meaning that Dorogan would be recognised as the victor as she was the last person to score.
“This is my first victory in a big tournament, in my home town, at the European Games. It’s crazy, I can’t believe it,” Dorogan told reporters.
“I have won silver and bronze before, but only in smaller tournaments and Grand Prix. I never expected to win, and every fight was tough. The final was the hardest and I still can’t believe I have won.”
Hungary’s three-time Olympic champion Zoltan Kammerer caused further controversy at the European Games on Tuesday by claiming that his European Games “does not mean anything”.
Kammerer, alongside team mates David Toth, Tamas Kulifai and Daniel Pauman had comfortably beaten crews from Russia and Belarus to win gold in the men’s kayak four 1000 metres sprint event.
The irony of Kammerer’s words could not have been greater as the team was presented their medals by none other than EOC President Patrick Hickey, who first came up with the concept of the European Games.
“The field is European, but almost of Olympic level, and the organisation is of Olympic level too,” said Kammerer.
“But we do not gain any qualification points (for Rio 2016) here, so in that respect it does not mean anything. Tomorrow we will be back at training again.”