Yang Qian of China has won the first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics in the Women's 10m Air Rifle. Image Credit: Reuters

Tokyo: Yang Qian sat just 0.2 points from a gold medal and uncorked her worst shot of the finals. No way a 9.8 was going to be enough to overtake Anastasiia Galashina. Turns out, it was - by a long shot.

Yang won the first gold medal of the Tokyo Games setting an Olympic record in 10-meter air rifle with 251.8 points despite a shaky final shot. Nina Christen of Switzerland took bronze.

“It’s unbelievable that I can be here,” Yang said through an interpreter. “I was really nervous. The competition was really tight, but I’m so happy that I could win.”

Galashina was the final of eight qualifiers in the Tokyo Games’ opening medal event and surged to the lead in the finals with a series of shots 10.5 or better. She hit a 10.8 her penultimate shot - one off the highest attainable score - to lead Galashina by 0.2 points.

Split second

Galashina and Yang fired almost simultaneously on the last shot and the limited crowd at Asaka Shooting Range let out gasps as the scores posted a split second later.

Yang, who qualified sixth, had been consistent throughout the finals, repeatedly hitting near the center of the 10 circle. The 21-year-old missed the innermost circle on her final shot, a 9.8 that surely would cost her gold.

Disappointed with her final shot, Yang looked up to see Galashina missed on her chance and the two center rings. The Russian’s 8.9 meant IOC President Thomas Bach would present Yang the gold medal on a tray - per pandemic protocols - instead of Galashina.