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Slovakian grabs 1st gold of Paralympics

BEIJING - Slovakian shooter Veronika Vadovicova shot the first gold of the Beijing Paralympic Games while simmer Du Jianping snatched for the host country its first gold.

Slovakia`s Veronika Vadovicova competes in the women`s 10-meter air rifle standing SH1 final in Beijing, September 7, 2008. [Xinhua] 

Vadovicova collected 494.8 points from women`s 10-meter air rifle standing SH1 event, taking a distant lead from the silver medalist, German Manuela Schmermund, who chalked up 490.2 points.

Du took the winning time further down to 1:35.21 in the finals, shaving 5.87 seconds off the previous world mark after setting a new Paralympic record in the morning`s heat in one minute and 42.95 seconds.

China`s Du Jianping reacts after winning the men`s 100m freestyle S3 final at the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games September 7, 2008. [Agencies] 

Vadovicova, the gold medalist in 50-meter sport rifle three positions at the 2006 World Championships, topped the list of eight finalists with 392 points, or one point below the Paralympic record.

In the 10-shot final, the 25-year-old on a wheelchair further pulled away from her rivals by scoring all of the first nine shots above 10, including a highest score of 10.8 in the fourth shot.

Before the last shot, she had already enjoyed a comfortable lead of 5.2 points.

Although she finished with 9.5, the gold medal had already fell into her pockets.

"I think it was good though it was my lowest-scored shot in the final," said the joyful champion, who has attended the Paralympics twice before the Beijing tour.

Defending champion Schmermund and 49-year-old Lopez, the only shooter from Puerto Rico, told spectators the meaning of "never giving up" with their performances.

Ranked fourth and fifth with 388 and 387 points respectively in the qualification round, the pair chased hotly in the final, especially Lopez, who surged to the fourth after the sixth shot.

After the ninth shot, she was still the fourth, closely following Australian veteran shooter Libby Kosmala with a 0.2-point deficit.

In the decisive last shot, Kosmala fired first. A 10.1. While Lopez managed to get a 10.4, edging her Australian rival with just 0.1 point.

"This medal is my first in five Paralympic Games and I`m the only shooter (from Peurto Rico). It means a lot," Lopez said.

While Schmermund said it was "incredible" to stand on the podium again. "I could have been better in the qualification round. I`m glad that I got a good score in the final," she said.

However, the 66-year-old Kosmala, oldest athlete on the Beijing Paralympic shooting range and a 10-time Paralympian, also grabbed spotlight and gained appaluses with her sharpness.

"I was so close (to the medals)," she said in disappointment.

The old lady had competed in swimming, track and field, archery before converting to shooting in Paralympics. She had already reaped 10 shooting gold medals from previous games.

She admitted in the competition, she was "a little bit tired". In the qualification, Kosmala had 97, 100 and 99 in the first three ten-shot series, but achieved just a 94 in the last. In the final, she was always the first to fire.

"Before the competition, people were talking about whether Kosmala could gain another gold medal, and this bothered her," said an Australian press official.

But as the smiling shooter said, "it`s my first final competition after 20 years. I enjoy it."

Kim Im-yeon from South Korea, who was holder of both Paralympic record and world record, seemed out of gear and finished seventh.

This is the second Paralympics for the 25-year-old Du.

"I only won a silver last time, missing the gold, which I had wanted badly for three years. This time I competed on the home ground and it made me feel more excited and special," said the winner.

Du led the lane throughout the first lap but met strong challenge from Dmytro Vynohradets.

The Ukrainian splashed powerfully after the turn and narrowed the gap to about half a body length in the final 25 meters. But Du made a desperate sprint to keep the minor lead and touched the wall first with a 0.44 winning margin.

"I was in my best shape today. I held my breath all the time and I thought it worthwhile even if I got choked," added Du. His compatriot Li Hanhua grabbed the bronze in 1:44.22.

Du won two golds in 50m backstroke and 150m medley events at Athens Paralympics. He will take part in 200m and 50m freestyle next Tuesday and Saturday respectively.

In Athens, China finished top of the swimming medals table with 19 golds.

Beijing Paralympic swimming competitions have attracted 560 athletes in 81 men`s and 59 women`s events. The nine-day contest, held at the National Aquatics Center "Water Cube", runs from September 7 to 15.

Date:2008-9-7 20:19:00     
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