Chinese sharpshooter aims for medal at Beijing

July 15th, 2008 - 5:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 15 (Xinhua) Chinese sharpshooter Du Li, first gold medal winner at the Athens Olympics and former world record holder, feels that she will be at the same starting line in Beijing as she was four years ago, with all strong rivals around her. The 26-year-old Du, who renewed the world record of women’s 10-metre air rifle in 2003 just one year after she entered the national team, and further impressed the world the next year by winning at the Athens Olympic Games, bears the expectation of millions of Chinese to win the first Olympic gold on home soil.

However, the girl from China’s eastern Shandong Province didn’t seem to be in good shape.

During the three world cups this year, Du could pocket only one gold medal in women’s 50-metre rifle and not in her major competing discipline of 10-metre air rifle.

“Skills of foreign shooters are improving fast. In comparison, we have little advantage,” said a worried Wang Yifu, the head coach of China’s shooting team.

At the Good Luck Beijing ISSF World Cup this April, Czech markswoman Katerina Emmons equalled her world record of 504.9 points. Two months later at the Milan World Cup, German Sonja Pfeilschifter improved the record by 0.1 point.

“Pfeilschifter is better than anybody else, including Du,” admitted Wang Yifu. The German was also world record holder of women’s 50-metre rifle three positions.

“We can’t count on others’ lapse for a gold medal,” Wang added. “Du’s problem was in the qualification round.”

Although she managed to edge into the final in recent competitions, Du was ranked behind the third, especially at the Munich championship, when she stood eighth among all finalists. Although she performed well in the final, it was hard to catch up with a huge starting disadvantage.

The so-called home advantage at the upcoming Games can become a disadvantage for Du, as loud cheering by spectators can affect the concetration of a shooter.

Despite the difficulties, Du is eager for a good result.

“Maybe this is the only chance for me to compete in the Olympic Games hosted by my own country,” Du said.

Besides the women’s 10-metre air rifle, Du, known for her beaming smile, longs for a breakthrough in women’s 50-metre rifle.

Du won her first gold in this discipline at the Good Luck Beijing ISSF World Cup, beating Pfeilschifter.

The Athens Games were full of miracles for Du who surpassed her archrival, famous Russian shooter Lioubov Galkina, only after the last shot in the final.

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