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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

In the End, It Is Mauer With the Steady Hand

Shooting: She takes advantage of error by German and Poland wins Games' first gold medal.

July 21, 1996|EDITH STANLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — More than 2,500 people crowded the Wolf Creek Shooting Complex pavilion for the finals in the women's 10-meter air rifle competition Saturday. This was the first medal event of the 1996 Summer Olympics, and as the final round began, there was definitely a crowd favorite.

Petra Horneber, 31, of Germany, had blazed her way through the qualification round with an Olympic-record score of 397 out of a possible 400. The spectators thought she was a shoo-in. As she took her position with seven other finalists, the crowd broke into enthusiastic applause.

Horneber continued to lead the pack until the final round of the required 10. Suddenly, something went wrong. Out of her rifle flew a bullet that missed the mark by little more than the width of a string of dental floss. She had just shot her lowest score of the day--an 8.8 out of a possible 10.9. The crowd turned to see what the other competitors would do. Renata Mauer of Poland, who had been in third place until the final round, shot a 10.7. Mauer won the first gold medal of the Games by 0.2 points, with a final score of 497.6 to Horneber's 497.4.

Mauer quickly changed from her sturdy shooting clothing to a bright red and white satin warmup suit. She ascended the platform in front of her country's red and white flag. Juan Antonio Samaranch, International Olympic Committee president, hung the heavy gold medal around the small woman's neck. Horneber received the silver and Aleksandra Ivosev of Yugoslavia the bronze.

In a meeting with the media shortly after the awards ceremony, Mauer, speaking through an interpreter, said, "If you are standing before the target, you have to be very concentrated. You have to try not to be emotional. I have worked hard. . . . I just did my best. I am very happy."

Horneber was asked what happened to her on the last shot.

"It was just a bad shot. It could have happened at the beginning, middle or the end," she said. "Instead of saying I lost the gold, let's just say I won the silver."

Ivosev's thoughts turned to her home country when she was asked how difficult it was for her to train for the Games.

"We were having very big problems because of war," she said. "We couldn't find any good places to practice."

Neither of the United States' two contenders qualified for the final round. Elizabeth Bourland of Wichita Falls, Texas, was 13th in the qualification round, and Nancy Napolski of Downers Grove, Ill., was 36th.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Medalists

Shooting

Men's air pistol:

Gold: Roberto DiDonna, Italy

Silver: Yifu Wang, China

Bronze: Tanu Kiriakov, Bulgaria

*

Women's Air Rifle

Gold: Renata Mauer, Poland

Silver: Petra Horneber, Germany

Bronze: Aleksandra Ivosev, Yugoslavia

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