SPORTS

Korakaki regards gold medal as payback for 'open war' with federation

FOSTER NIUMATA

TAGS: Olympics

Anna Korakaki took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

She had been one point from an Olympic gold medal, leading 6-0, in the women's 25-meter pistol final on Tuesday but began to choke. She hit a wrong target and missed one completely, allowing Monika Karsch of Germany to draw level at 6-6.

Her father and coach, Tasos Korakakis, sitting not far behind, couldn't bear to watch, preferring to look at the floor, his pants, the hands in his lap.

Karsch started the seventh five-shot series hitting the wrong target, and Korakaki retook the lead going to the last shot. Korakaki hit, paused, and jumped up and down when she realized she won.

"I'm the happiest person on Earth but I can't find the words in English, in Greek or French to describe my feelings," said the 20-year-old Korakaki, who also won bronze in the 10-meter air pistol.

She did admit to becoming "a bit stressful" after winning the first three series of the final, and knowing gold was virtually in her grasp.

And when she teared up on the podium while listening to her national anthem, she said that was about relief and payback.

Korakaki said she was close to quitting shooting three years ago, at 17, because she and her father were "in an open war" with the Hellenic Shooting Federation, particularly in the last two years.

She blamed the problem on "the behavior and attitudes by people of my federation" ever since she made the national team at 14.

"I cried listening to the national anthem, because at that moment, all the difficulties went through my mind," she said. "I really felt like I made it, against everybody, against every hard situation, against everyone trying to bring me down. That's why I cried, it was a mental release."

That she managed to win a gold and bronze in her first games, Greece's first Olympic medals in shooting in 96 years, she credited to "my will, my strength, my motivation from my family, my friends, and hard work."

Korakaki was second after qualifying, behind only top-ranked Zhang Jingjing of China. Zhang shot an Olympic qualifying record of 592, beating by one the mark of 2012 champion Kim Jangmi of South Korea.

Kim failed by one place to qualify for the eight-women semifinals on a countback. The 2008 champion, Chen Ying of China, also missed out.

Nino Salukadze of Georgia, the 1988 Olympic champion in her eighth games, rolled back the years to qualify third, but started badly in the semifinals and couldn't recover.

Neither, surprisingly, could Zhang, the world champion. She had to rally late in the semifinals, but managed to make only the bronze-medal match. She hit all five targets in the first series against Heidi Diethelm Gerber, but faded and the Swiss clinched bronze on her second-to-last shot of their sixth series.

The semifinals guaranteed a new Olympic champion, and Korakaki, more relaxed after winning the bronze, ultimately earned it. Despite the problems with her federation, she'll keep on shooting.

"I'm dreaming of more medals," she said, "more European medals, more World Cup medals, and, why not, more Olympic medals."

[AP]

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