Perth Para-shooter Anton Zappelli has started the World Para-sport Shooting Championships in Sydney with a bang, claiming silver on day one of competition.
The Rio Paralympian secured his first medal at a major championships in the mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1 event, finishing with a score of 252.9, just 0.3 behind newly crowned world champion Matt Skelhon of Great Britain.
“I’m a little bit in shock actually,” Zappelli said, of even making through to the finals, after scraping in to the top 8, by just 0.1 of a point in the qualifying rounds.
“I haven’t really processed what it means to win silver. I was feeling reasonably confident in the final, but I got the odd shot that wasn’t quite right and it rattled me.
“I’ve actually had a few problems with this rifle since last Friday, and there wasn’t a lot I could do before World Championships started, but I fixed it with the old band-aid effect and crossed my fingers. I feel really lucky to come back with a half decent shot to win silver.”
In other results today, two-time Paralympian Natalie Smith placed 32nd in the same event with a score of 628.5, with Glen McMurtrie coming in at 63rd place out of a field of 70.
Bundaberg’s Chris Pitt missed out on a finals berth today, finishing 18th in mixed 25m pistol SH1, while Rohan Daw placed 45th in a field of 48 in his first ever World Championship event.
While Australia has already qualified two all-important quota spots for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games next year, the team will be vying to lock in another three over the remainder of the World Championships this week.
And having that pressure to secure them on home soil is bitter sweet, according to Natalie Smith.
“There are a whole lot of benefits to having this World Championships here in Sydney. We get to laugh at everyone who’s like, ‘Oh my god, the travelling!’ – we do that every time! It’s good to see that from somebody else for a change, but at the same time, we’re so close to Tokyo,” Smith said.
“As you get closer to Tokyo and the fewer competitions there are left, it increases pressure. Chances of wildcards to get to Tokyo are limited, so adding the pressure of a World Championships to the pressure of quota spots is tough.
“We’re all glad to be here and I know we’re all looking forward to seeing what each other can do over the course of the week.”
The Sydney 2019 World Shooting Para-sport Championships take place from 12 – 18 October 2019.
By Sascha Ryner, Paralympics Australia