Scoring 199.4 points from her 20 shots, 25-year-old first-time Olympian Zhang Mengxue secured China’s first gold medal of the 2016 Olympics on Sunday by winning the women’s 10-meter air pistol event.
In her coach’s eyes, Zhang is actually quite the newbie. She joined the national team at the end of 2014 and didn’t even win a district championship before coming to Rio. According to Xinhua, Zhang was ranked only 7th in the qualification round and she didn’t perform well on her first four shots; however, she established her lead midway through the event and pulled away with a 10.9 perfect shot in the final round. Meanwhile, Zhang’s score becomes an Olympic record under the new format.
Zhang took the gold by a decent margin of 2.3 points from Russian silver medalist Vitalina Batsarashkina, with Anna Korakaki of Greece pocketing the bronze medal.
Zhang told reporters that she hadn’t expected to win gold at Rio, but had only hoped to make it to the finals. “I’m so excited that I got the gold, no matter it is the first gold metal for China or not, I aced it!” Zhang said happily, “And it happened to be my mother’s birthday yesterday, so this will be the best gift for her.”
Meanwhile, Yi Siling, the Chinese shooter who captured the first gold medal in the 2012 Londom Olympics, only ended up with a bronze medal this time around in the women’s 10-meter air rifle event.
Zhang’s gold medal comes after an anxious first day for the Chinese national team, that was tied for the lead in total medals, but had yet to capture a single gold. While some people were upset, commentator Wang Yanhu suggested that China abandon its “gold medal complex” and simply cheer athletes, even if they only received silver or bronze medals.
China’s most famous webstar, Papi Jiang, agrees. She posted on Weibo that Chinese athletes are the best with or without gold medals, receiving a lot of support from netizens.
“Please give applause to silver and bronze medalists as well!” one netizen commented.
“Everyone in China’s team is awesome. I’m proud of you all!” another echoed.
Chinese media thinks that China will capture 30 to 36 golds this Olympics. In 2012, they came in second with 38 after dominating the 2008 Beijing Olympics with 51 golds. After Zhang, two more Chinese Olympians captured gold medals, tying China with the US. But hey, it’s not really a big deal, right?
By Sophie Wang