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OLYMPICS / ATHENS 2004

Last, Best Shot Nets Games' First Gold

August 15, 2004|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — At 11:30 Saturday morning in the main hall of the Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Center, Li Du of China, her hand steady, her eye sharp, her resolve firm, squeezed off a shot that propelled her into the most exclusive club in Greece's Olympic history.

With that shot, her last in Saturday's 10-meter air rifle women's final, Li came from four-tenths of a point behind to win a gold medal, the first of the 2004 Games.

She thus joined Koroibos of Greece and James Connolly of the United States as the first winners of the three landmark Greek Olympics. Koroibos, a cook from Elis, won a race of almost 200 meters in the first Olympics, held in 776 BC. Connolly won the triple jump in the 1896 Olympics, first of the modern Games.

And now Li has won the first gold in the Games that have brought the competition back to its ancestral homeland after more than a century.

Li, who holds the world record at 10 meters of 504.9 points, finished Saturday's competition with 502.

She beat out Lioubov Galkina of Russia, the silver-medal winner with a 501.5, and Katerina Kurkova of the Czech Republic, whose 501.1 earned her the bronze.

When Galkina managed only a 9.7 on her last shot, Li took advantage by following with a 10.6 for the victory.

"I was a bit nervous at first," Li said, "but as I did better and better, my confidence grew."

Said Galkina: "I sort of lost it at the end, but I am still pleased with the results."

Less than pleased was Emily Caruso of Fairfield, Conn., one of two Americans vying for the eight-woman final. With a score of 396, she finished tied with five others for the final three spots. But the tiebreaker was the score of the last of the four qualifying rounds. Caruso had a 97 in that round to the 99 recorded by Laurence Brize of France.

"I'm not sure what happened on that last round," Caruso said. "I'm really disappointed."

The other American, Hattie Johnson of Athol, Idaho, finished tied for 14th with a score of 394.

It was the sixth time the 10-meter air rifle competition has been held in the Olympics. Americans had won two of the previous five.

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