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  • Larnaca: GB's Amber Hill amongst four to secure quota spots


    The 2022 European Championships (Shotgun) in Larnaca have had their final Olympic spots decided with two spots each being earned in the Men's and Women's Skeet. NOCs came into this event knowing that if they qualified one man and one woman they would also guarantee a spot in the mixed team event.


    Starting with the men's side, 78 athletes entered, although nine of these were "Ranking Points Only" (RPO) entries, which meant they couldn't progress from qualification or earn a spot at the Games. The first round was a qualification round, with eight athletes progressing, and 125 targets to shoot. Leading the way was Eric Delaunay of France with 124 hits, with GB's Ben Llewellin in second with 123. Jesper Hansen of Denmark and Luigi Lodde of Italy were tied for third on 122 hits, sending it to a marathon shoot-off: Lodde finally winning it: twenty hits to nineteen. Also on 122 hits was Georgios Achilleos of Cyprus, but as a Ranking Points Only athlete he did not enter the shoot-off and finished fifth. The next seven athletes all got 121 hits, and apart from another Cypriot RPO, Andreas Chasikos, who finished twelfth, the top four of the remaining six in the shoot-off would qualify. In the first shoot-off, Jakub Tomecek of the Czech Republic qualified in sixth with twelve hits, while Mikola Milchev of Ukraine came seventh with ten, and Tammaro Cassandro of Italy came eighth with nine. But the Czech Republic's Tomas Nydrle, Georgia's Yaroslav Startsev and Dainis Upelniks of Latvia were all tied on just one hit. There would be another shoot-off for ninth and the final spot: but both Nydrle and Startsev managed two, while Upelniks could just get one. So Upelniks was eliminated in eleventh, and a third shoot-off was necessary for Nydrle and Startsev, which the Georgian finally took 4-3.


    Achilleos aside, the remaining eight of the top nine then progressed to the Ranking Round, in which they would be split into two matches of four. The lowest-placed athlete after twenty hits would be eliminated in both matches, with the remaining three continuing until thirty hits were completed: the top two would go through, while third would also be eliminated. The first match was composted of Cassandro, Delaunay, Lodde, and Tomecek. And after twenty hits it was Delaunay and Lodde that led the way with nineteen hits, while Cassandro and Tomecek were on eighteen: Tomecek survived due to finishing higher in the shoot-off. After that though, the Czech held his nerve while others faltered, hitting a perfect ten out of his last ten to finish on 28. Lodde also finished on 28, but Delaunay missed two of his last ten to be eliminated on 27. In the other Ranking Match; Hansen, Llewellin, Milchev and Startsev were the four to face off. After twenty shots, Hansen led with nineteen, with Llewellin and Startsev on eighteen, Milchev was eliminated with sixteen. All three remaining hit nine of their next ten, so Hansen went through on 28, but Llewellin and Startsev had to shoot-off for 2nd on 27. The Briton took it 4-3 and advanced to the medal match.


    So it would be Hansen, Llewellin, Lodde and Tomecek in the final: whoever was last after twenty shots would be eliminated in fourth, then of the remaining three whoever was last after thirty would be eliminated and take the bronze medal, finally, whoever was ahead after forty would win gold. Twenty shots in and Lodde and Tomecek had gone without a single miss, while Llewellin was on nineteen, Hansen was eliminated with seventeen. Lodde then hit his next ten to extend his perfect run to thirty, while Tomecek missed just one to bring his total to 29. Llewellin missed two and was eliminated with a bronze medal on 27. In the final ten shots, Tomecek missed just one while Lodde's resolve finally broke and he missed two, meaning they tied on 38 apiece. In a gruelling shoot-off, which seemed to go on forever, Tomecek finally came out the winner 20-19. So gold for the Czech Republic and silver for Italy, and those two countries get a quota place.


    Over to the women's side and there were 35 entrants, none of which were "RPO"s. Germany's Nadine Messerschmidt topped qualifying with 119 hits, ahead of Danka Bartekova of Slovakia in second with 117. Five athletes were tied for 116, with Diana Bacosi of Italy in third, Konstantia Nikolaou of Cyprus in fourth, Barbora Sumova of the Czech Republic in fifth, Amber Hill of Great Britain in sixth and Lucie Anastassiou of France in seventh after the shoot-offs. More dramatic was the six-way tie for eighth on 114, with Marjut Heinonen of Finland winning the shoot-off to get the last spot, ahead of Martina Bartolomei and Chiara Cainero, both of Italy, Nele Wissmer of Germany, Victoria Larsson of Sweden and Jessica Louise Burgess of Great Britain.


    The first Ranking Match was made up of Anastassiou, Bacosi, Messerschmidt, and Sumova, and after twenty hits Messerschmidt led with eighteen ahead of Bacosi on seventeen, with Sumova and Anastassiou on fifteen: the Czech survived based on the qualification performance. Bacosi hit all of her next ten to qualify first with 27, and Messerschmidt joined her with 25 despite missing three of her final ten: Sumova missed one to finish on 24. In the other ranking match, which was composed of Bartekova, Heinonen, Hill, and Nikolau, Hill put on a special display, hitting all twenty of her first targets to lead with Bartekova also impressive on nineteen. Nikolau survived on seventeen while Heinonen on sixteen was eliminated. Nikolau had no answer though as both Hill and Bartekova hit their final ten to finish with a perfect thirty and a 29 respectively, while the Cypriot could only hit seven and was eliminated on 24.


    So off to the final then, which could be composed of Bacosi, Bartekova, Hill, and Messerschmidt and it was ultra-competitive from the start: after twenty shots, Messerschmidt had hit a perfect twenty while Hill, Bartekova, and Bacosi were all on nineteen: the Italian eliminated due to her inferior ranking round score. The next ten were perfect from Hill while Bartekova and Messerschmidt could only manage eight: this meant that Hill now led on 29, Messerschmidt was on 28, and Bartekova was eliminated on 27. In the final round, Hill had hit nine out of ten to finish on 38 while Messerschmidt hit her first nine to bring herself up to 37. She just needed to hit the final target to force a shoot-off, but missed to hand Hill the gold and Great Britain the first quota place. Messerschmidt still earned silver and a quota place of her own to Germany.


    That is the last of the Olympic qualification events from Larnaca then, on a day where the Czech Republic and Italy won quotas in the men's skeet, and Great Britain and Germany did so in the women's. The 25/50m European Championships are underway in Poland with Olympic qualification events soon to start. The next chance athletes will get in these events is the 2022 World Championships (Shotgun) in Osijek, Croatia.


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