Italy's Campriani calms fears to earn air rifle goal
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Niccolo Campriani saw his lead drop to less than a point heading into the finals.
One miscue or great shot by Ukraine's Serhiy Kulish and the gold that eluded the Italian four years ago would slip through his fingers again.
Campriani pulled it out by pulling off the two biggest shots of his career.
Campriani fired off two golden shots in the final round of the men's 10-meter air rifle Monday at the Rio Olympics, earning the gold medal that he missed in London.
''Today, I was trying to keep as many happy thoughts as possible. Fear is always around the corner,'' Campriani said.
Campriani tied the Olympic qualifying record in London four years ago, but felt the pressure of being the favorite, hitting the 9-ring twice late in the finals. He finished second to Romania's Alin George Moldoveanu.
Campriani still earned gold in 3-position rifle, but the air rifle loss stung.
At Rio, he qualified first with an average of 10.503 and opened the finals with a 10.7. He took the lead late in the elimination rounds and led Kulish by 0.4 points heading into the final two shots.
Campriani hit 10.6 on his first shot to Kulish's 10.4 and sealed gold with a 10.7 on his final shot. He had 206.1 points to finish 1.5 ahead of Kulish.
''For me, shooting in the finals is not about taking the best shot, but not making any big mistakes,'' Campriani said.
Kulish, who competed in three shooting events at London, edged Russia's Vladimir Maslennikov by 0.2 points in the penultimate round to reach the final, but could not catch Campriani thanks to a 9.8 on his final shot.
''It is actually a very strange feeling, but tomorrow I think that I will wake up and I will realize what has happened,'' Kulish said of winning a medal.
Maslennikov narrowly missed a shot at gold, but still went home with a medal at his first Olympics. His bronze made Russia the 13th nation to have 400 overall Olympic medals.
Campriani and the field took advantage after two of the world's top shooters failed to make it out of qualifying.
World No. 1 Cao Yifei of China had a poor final shot of qualifying to miss the final eight by one spot. Moldoveanu was nearly three points behind the lowest qualifying score and finished 19th.