Team USA sharpshooter Will Shaner hits gold in Olympic air rifle final


American sharpshooter William Shaner struck gold in the men’s 10-metre rifle event Sunday with an Olympic record of 251.6.

The 20-year-old from Colorado Springs beat Chinese teenager Sheng Lihao in the final in Tokyo.

Shaner overcome not only his opponents, but also nerves and a heart rate that made it more difficult to aim straight.

The 20-year-old admitted that he hadn’t given himself much of a chance in the final.

The college student was the youngest man to compete for Team USA in the rifle event.

He said afterwards: ‘Going in, I never really thought I could win. It’s a big stage. There’s a lot of good competition.’

He added: ‘It feels amazing. I’m only 20, but I’ve been doing this since I was eight.

William Shaner looked determined as he lifted his air rifle for the Men’s 10m Air Rifle Final on Sunday. He went on to win the gold medal in the event

Shaner said he had to battle a racing heart rate and nerves to compete

Shaner said he had to battle a racing heart rate and nerves to compete

‘I’ve been doing this a long time, so I’ve been able to get a good score and progress. To finally achieve what I came here to do is amazing.

‘I was mostly feeling pretty calm. I did my job where I had to. I don’t focus too much on the outcome, I just focus on what I need to do and it went pretty good for me.’

But he confessed to facing added challenges as he battled for gold.

‘(It was) Mainly nerves and heart rate. When it gets too hot in the range, heart rate increases. It makes it harder to shoot.

‘(I had to) just keep breathing, just one thing at a time. I really didn’t focus on outcomes, I focused on what I was doing and I was going to let the outcomes sort themselves out.

Shaner, center, competed against Sheng Lihao, left, of China, in the event

Shaner, center, competed against Sheng Lihao, left, of China, in the event

Shaner has been shooting since he was 8, and has long dreamed of becoming an Olympian

Shaner has been shooting since he was 8, and has long dreamed of becoming an Olympian

‘All the time, all the time. I said, “keep on pushing”.’

With his parents Gregory and Victoria and family back in the US, he said the first person to congratulate him was ‘My drug testing guy!’

He began shooting at the age of 8, and set his heart on one day becoming an Olympian.

He said he wanted to thank ‘definitely family and friends, all my supporters, it’s been a long, long four to five years.’

Shaner, center, won Team USA's first Olympic gold medal in the event, with Lihao earning second-place and Yang Haoran, of China, earning the bronze

Shaner, center, won Team USA’s first Olympic gold medal in the event, with Lihao earning second-place and Yang Haoran, of China, earning the bronze

Shaner was remarkably consistent throughout the final round, scoring 10.5 or above on 13 of his 24 shots in the final. His lowest score, a 10.1, came on his second-to-last shot, but the insurmountable 1.8-point lead he had built provided ample cushion to secure the victory.

It marked Team USA’s first Olympic gold medal in the event.

His performance was nearly identical to his gold performance at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup in Croatia last month.

‘I just did the same thing as I did there and just worked out the problems I had and just knew that it was going to get me to where I wanted to be,’ Shaner told USA Today after the win. 

He finished with 251.6 points, an Olympic record and only 1.2 points shy of the world mark.

China took the silver and bronze medals, as Sheng Lihao was second scoring 250.9, while fellow countryman Yang Haoran took bronze with a score of 229.4.

His mantra is to ‘strives to be a role model for the next generation of up-and-coming shooting athletes.’

Fellow US shooter Lucas Kozeniesky also made the final and avoided elimination with some clutch shots down the stretch, including two 10.9s, but a 9.9 on his last shot saw him depart with a sixth-place finish.

He also competed in Rio but did not qualify for the final.



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