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Saturday, August 14, 2004
Chinese win gold in men's pistol, women's air

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- The first gold medal of the Summer Games came down to the last shot.

Li Du of China scored 10.6 points on her final attempt Saturday, jumping ahead of Russia's Lioubov Galkina to win the women's 10-meter air rifle.

Li finished with an Olympic record 502 points, a half-point ahead of Galkina. The Russian had led throughout, but got only a 9.7 on her final shot -- her lowest mark.

Katerina Kurkova, the 2002 world champion from the Czech Republic, won the bronze.

On the men's side, Wang Yifu of China won the gold medal Saturday on his final shot in the men's 10-meter air pistol.

Mikhail Nestruev of Russia won the silver. Vladimir Isakov of Russia won the bronze.

Li shot after Galkina on their 10th and final attempts. When her winning score was posted, the crowd broke into a loud cheer.

Galkina set an Olympic record with a 399 in the qualifying round, and led Li by 1.4 points with just three shots left. But Li finished strong, getting two 10.8s before her last attempt. The maximum score in the final round is 10.9.

"To start with, I was a bit nervous,'' Li said through a translator. "The more I did it, the more confidence I got.''

Li's comeback was even more impressive coming against Galkina, who is ranked No. 1 in the world. Li was ranked No. 9, but after finishing second at the 2002 world championships, she knew she could compete with anybody.

"I'm fully confident with myself wherever I am,'' she said.

Galkina didn't pay attention to the standings in the finals, but knew that her performance had slipped from her record-setting qualifying round.

"Obviously, during qualifying shots, I had more control,'' she said through a translator. "During the finals, maybe I sort of lost it somewhat, but I'm still pleased with the result.''

In the women's 10-meter air rifle, shooters take 40 shots in qualifying, worth up to 10 points each. Then, the top eight advance to the finals, where their 10 shots are added to the preliminary totals to determine the winner.

Americans Emily Caruso of Fairfield, Conn., and Hattie Johnson of Athol, Idaho, failed to qualify for the final round.