There were no Australian entrants in the women’s 50m Rifle 3 Position competition on day six of the Rio Olympics where Germany’s Barbara Engleder won gold. The world number five-ranked shooter claimed her first medal in her fourth appearance at the Games.
The 50m Rifle 3 Position event is comprised of firing while kneeling, prone (lying on stomach) and standing, in that order. The 33-year-old German shooter was in front at the end of prone and was at or near the top of the leaderboard for all of the standing shots. Engleder, who earned sixth spot in the event in the London 2012 Games, almost threw away the gold berth on the final shot, only managing a 9.0 as China’s silver medallist Binbin Zhang fired a 10.4. However, she had clocked up sufficient leeway to ensure that her advantage was out of reach. When Engleder became aware that she had triumphed, she fell to her knees and yelled out with delight.
Zhang, 27, was lying sixth after the prone position, but began to climb the leaderboard in the closing phase of the event. This was her first medal in a major international competition. Li Du, also representing China, was ahead of Zhang with one shot to go before the bronze medal exit. She missed out by firing an 8.6 to fluff her chance for gold, collecting her second medal in Rio, as she had collared a silver in 10m Air Rifle as well. In the overall analysis, Engleder tallied a total score of 458.6, finishing just 0.2 of a point ahead of Zhang.
Engleder, a sport soldier and mother of a young son, had no idea how close it was at the end but finally she was able to celebrate. On the podium she spread her arms wide and when Germany’s anthem began playing, her tension-filled achievement started to hit home. “First I couldn’t believe it and secondly I did not know if I should start to sing, so I started singing,” she told Eurosport. “This is my last Olympic Games and almost the last competition to shoot. I am old enough for it now. I am almost 34 and my son needs a steady life.”
Many of the German athletes competing at the Rio Olympics are soldiers in the Bundeswehr. The German Ministry of Defence spends more than 27 million euros ($52 million) each year on supporting top athletes and is one of the biggest backers of sports in its country.