Skinner lands gold medal on Olympics opening weekend

Shooting hogged the headlines on Monday as Victoria’s Catherine Skinner took the gold medal in the women’s Trap event on day two of the Rio Olympics. The 26-year-old SSAA member overcame the challenge of New Zealand’s Natalie Rooney in a tense 12-11 shoot-out to claim Australia’s third gold medal of the Games. Television and print media lauded Catherine’s feat as their lead story of the day with the nation basking in the afterglow of Australia’s early gold rush at the Olympics.

The chemical engineering student grabbed shooting’s first Olympic medal since the 2008 Beijing Games but she certainly did things the hard way. To keep her hopes alive she had to complete two sudden-death shots against Canada’s Cynthia Meyer in a shoot-off to reach the six-person semi-final. Then after making the gold medal play-off by missing just one of 15 shots, she endured a horror start against Rooney in the decider. Catherine fluffed her first and fourth shots to fall two targets in arrears, but when Rooney lapsed she coolly sank the concluding three clay targets to win by one shot. The result meant that the daughter of a cattle farmer from country Victoria became Australia’s first Olympic shooting gold medallist since Suzy Balogh won the same event in 2004.

The Olympic debutant told the Sydney Morning Herald that said she hoped her win would provide a lift for Shooting Australia. “I think it’s going to be really positive for them, to show that their programs have been paying off,” Catherine said.

Catherine’s dad Ken and older brother Andrew were instrumental in encouraging her to get into the sport but had to stay back in Australia. However, mum Anne, other brother Craig and Craig’s girlfriend Meredith were in the stands (alongside AOC chef de mission Kitty Chiller) as events unfolded.

Double Commonwealth Games gold medallist Laetisha Scanlan roared into the finals as the top qualifier but bowed out after missing five of her targets in the six-person shoot-out.

Earlier, Lalita Yauhleuskaya, appearing in her fourth Games for Australia and sixth overall, and Elena Galiabovitch competed in the women’s 10m Air Pistol event. Yauhleuskaya finished 24th while Galiabovitch, who was making her Olympic debut, landed 43rd position.

In other shooting results at the Games, Newcastle’s Blake Blackburn came 36th on his debut appearance in the men’s 10m Air Pistol on the opening day. He was followed by four-time Olympian Daniel Repacholi, who managed 44th spot.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Hens ended in 39th position in the women’s 10m Air Rifle in an event won by 19-year-old American Virginia Thrasher. Du Li and Siling Yi, both from China, won silver and bronze respectively.

Adam Vella and teenager Mitchell Iles were involved in the qualifiers in the men’s Trap, with the semi-finals to be conducted tomorrow.

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