US shooter Thrasher wins first gold medal of Rio Games

American teenager Virginia Thrasher became the first gold medallist at the Rio Olympic Games on Saturday, in women's 10-metre air rifle shooting.

Thrasher, 19, took the lead halfway through the nine-round final and never looked back as she finished with a total score of 208.0 points.

The 2004 winner Du Li of China came out of retirement to take silver with 207.0 points. The bronze also went to China, with the 2012 winner Yi Siling carding 185.4 points.

Thrasher, who dreamt of competing in winter Olympics figure skating when she was young, follows a proud tradition for American shooters who are the most successful Olympic nation in the sport.

"I’m so happy to start off Rio 2016 with a gold medal for my country," she said.

"For me, it has been a whirlwind of a summer. I have been travelling internationally the entire summer, and this is just the icing on the cake."

However, having moved house nine times because her father is in the US air force, she was able to cope with this well.

In 2016, Thrasher became the first freshman, with West Virginia, to win both NCAA rifle titles, and was named rookie of the year by the American rifle conference. She then won the Olympic trials to book the ticket to Rio.

That fulfilled her Olympic dream after as a young girl she had hoped to make it to the Games as a skater. But she once said she realised when entering high school that she would never achieve her goal in skating, and instead concentrated on shooting.

On Saturday, she qualified for the eight-strong final in sixth place, and left her Chinese rivals behind. Her lead was as big as 1.2 points, and she cruised home in the ninth and final round - beaming even before Du had fired her final shot and then receiving the gold from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

"I think when I took the lead in the final I kind of realised that this is a possibility. But I quickly refocused back on the shooting."

Others were not so lucky, with world number one Andrea Arsovic of Serbia and reigning world champion Petra Zublasing of Italy not surviving the qualifying round.

In the final, each athlete had three shots in each of the first two rounds, and then two per round in a format where the last-placed athlete was eliminated in each round until Thrasher and Du were left in the ninth and final round.

Last update: Sat, 06/08/2016 - 20:58
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