Olympic gold medallists pair Mauro Nespoli and Natalia Valeeva continued Italy’s country’s strong tradition in archery by taking victory in the mixed team final over Georgia on day five of the Baku European Games.
The Italians had enjoyed a fairly easy ride to progress to the final, but a tentative start where they lost the first set to Georgia’s Khatuna Narimanidze and Lasha Pkhakadze saw them having to fight hard to stay in contention for the gold.
They recovered well, however, shooting a few straight 10’s to score a total of 39 points out of a possible 40 to take the second and third sets.
But despite having a 4-2 lead going into the fourth set, the Italians barely won the round after Valeeva made some mistakes and the Georgians delivered a fine performance of 36 points, although the Italian effort was good enough for the win.
“The maximum that could be done, we did it thanks to Mauro (who fired the winning shot). The nice thing about this competition is that the best are here and when the going gets tough, the tough start playing,” said Valeeva.
“It’s very nice to win this evening but tomorrow we have to fight our best for our friends in the team. If they shoot as well as us, we will win.”
“It was time to get another gold,” added Nespoli. “Winning it here fills me with pride. It is the first gold medal for Italy at the European Games and this makes me very proud.”
The bronze medal match was won 5-1 by Ukranian duo Lidiia Sichenikova and Heorhiy Ivantskyy.
Meanwhile, Russia secured rhythmic gymnastics all-around gold with a terrific performance in the ribbon section of the group ribbon event at the Gymnatics Arena in Baku.
The Russian team of Anastasiia Maksimova, Sofya Skomorokh, Anastasiia Tatareva, Maria Tolkacheva and Diana Borisova started well in the ribbons section of the apparatus receiving a score of 18.000 points from the judges to finish first in the classification.
But with only a score of 17.300 in the clubs and hoops routine, they could only manage fourth for that qualification.
Yet it was their high score in the ribbons routine that enabled the Russians to take the gold, the combined score of 35.300 proving too much for Israel and Belarus, who came second and third scoring 35.050 and 34.850 respectively.
“Our head coach Irina is the main reason for our success,” Maksimova told reporters. “Thanks to her. She’s always with us, she watches all our practices.”
“She said to us, ‘All for one and one for all.’ She said that you need to do everything with beauty and love. If you do it with beauty and love, then technique will be there.
“It was the first time we performed as a team together. It was hard for us. I have participated with different girls in different competitions. I think we performed well. We are happy and satisfied with the results. We felt the support of Russians in the audience.”
There was further Russian success later on, this time in the acrobatic gymnastics qualification, where the pair of Marina Chernova and Georgy Pataraya topped the results in the mixed pair balance event while the team of Valeriia Belkina, Yulia Nikitina and Zhanna Parkhometc also progressed in first place in the women’s dynamic event.
Elsewhere, Great Britain’s Olympic champion Jade Jones easily defeated Croatia’s Ana Zaninovic 12-9 in the women’s -57kg taekwondo final to gain crucial qualification points for the Rio Olympics next summer.
The 22-year-old opened the scoring with four points in the first round before overcoming a fightback from Zaninovic mid-way through the second to end the round 9-6. Jones then consolidated her lead in the third round by adding another three points to her tally to eventually claim the gold 12-9.
“I didn’t have the best of days and I scraped through the other fights, but I was better in the final,” Jones said. “After the disappointment of the world championships, I hope this will get my confidence right up. Rio is just around the corner.”
“I got 40 (qualification) points here and I just need a few more grand prix and then I can be selected for Rio.”