By Mary Milliken
Greek shooter Anna Korakaki became a double medal winner in Rio 2016 by taking the gold in the women’s 25 metre pistol event on Tuesday, two days after she won bronze and made history as the first woman to win a shooting medal for Greece.
For the 20-year-old, the gold and bronze in her first Olympics are a sweet reward for the last arduous years of what she called “open war” between the Greek shooting federation and Korakaki and her father, who is her coach.
In a one-on-one final match, Korakaki prevailed over Monika Karsch, a 33-year-old from Germany, who she knows from competition in the German leagues. Karsch, also a first-time Olympian, almost ruined Korakaki’s party with a strong comeback after her Greek rival practically had the gold in the bag.
Heidi Diethelm Gerber of Switzerland won the bronze medal, beating world No. 1 and world champion Zhang Jingjing of China. The two-time Swiss Olympian is 47, took up the sport at 33 and quit her job as a bookkeeper to concentrate on shooting after an unimpressive showing at London 2012.
After winning the tough final match, Korakaki jumped up and down and embraced her father, the two dressed in Greece’s blue and white colors. So tense was her father that he could not look at his daughter shoot the final rounds.
“We have been through many, many difficulties,” said Korakaki. “I was about to quit shooting three years ago when I was 17.”
She said she cried on the podium as the Greek national anthem played because “I really felt like I made it, despite every frustration and everyone who is trying to bring me down.”
On Sunday, she won the bronze in the 10 metre air pistol and is now the only Greek athlete to have won any medal in Rio so far.
“Winning the bronze helped today,” Korakaki said. “I was calmer and I only wanted to enjoy it and I did. But it was a difficult match today.”
The second medal nearly escaped her when Karsch was down 6-0 and managed to tie it at 6-6. Korakaki won the seventh round of five shots for a 8-6 victory.
Defending Olympic champion Kim Jang-mi of South Korea narrowly missed qualifying for the semi-final, finishing ninth, after suffering shoulder issues over the past few years.