Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah fired an early warning for the 2020 Tokyo Games by winning his first Qatar Open medal yesterday.
The Qatari sports icon, a bronze medallist in skeet shooting at the 2012 London Olympics and also a two-time Dakar Rally winner, won the silver after losing a keenly contested final 58-55 to Frenchman Antony Terras at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. Russia’s Anton Astakhov claimed the bronze.
“It is fantastic to win a silver medal on home range. I had promised HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani (President of Qatar Olympic Committee) after we returned from Rio 2016 Games that I will win another Olympic medal for Qatar. Today’s win indicates that I am on the right path,” said al-Attiyah, who was taking part in his first international shooting event after last year’s Olympic Games.
Rallying and marksmanship are not easy to combine, but al-Attiyah won the bronze — only the fourth individual medal Qatar have won at the Olympics — in London after only 10 days of practice. He is now looking forward to Tokyo after disappointment at the Rio Games.
“I have cut down on a number of races to concentrate on shooting for the Tokyo Games,” the 45-year-old added.
On his participation at the upcoming shooting World Cup, al-Attiyah appeared up-beat for the event in the Indian capital of Delhi. “Yes, my good showing in the Qatar Open Shotgun has certainly given me a confidence boost. I am leaving for India tomorrow,” the ace shooter informed. “I have been to six Olympic Games (Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio) and won the bronze in London. It will be a dream for me to (also) compete in Tokyo… It will be my seventh Olympics,” the 12-time Middle East Rally Championship winner said.
Al-Attiyah, who just about managed to get past the qualifying stage through shoot-out, came all guns blazing in the final round to finish second. He made it past the qualifying stage along with Ben Llewellin of Great Britain after Saif bin Futais of UAE got eliminated in the three-way shoot-out. All three finished with identical score of 121 in the qualifying round, resulting in the shoot-out.
In the final round, Terras, al-Attiyah, Astakhov, al-Muhannadi and Llewellin were in fine form in the first round to register a perfect score. But as the competition went ahead, first Qatar’s Khaled al-Muhannadi flattered, followed by Llewellin, leaving Terras, al-Attiyah and Astakhov to fight for the medals.
For hosts Qatar, it was their second silver medal of the nine-day championship which concluded yesterday. In the final round, Terras came with a near-perfect display, missing just two targets in the final round on way to the gold. It was the third gold medal for the 31-year-old Frenchman out of the five he competed in.
“The conditions were difficult for shooting. It was quite windy. But due credit to all the shooters for keeping their focus and getting good scores,” said the Frenchman, who finished as winner in the skeet event at the same championship in 2013 and last year.
“This range is very nice, at least for me! It’s fantastic, I love shooting here. I think I have developed a special relationship with the Qatar shooting range,” added Terras, who also won the gold at last year’s Military Shooting Championship at the same venue.
Terras is not going to the World Cup in India, which starts tomorrow, on account of funds crunch. “I am not going to New Delhi. My federation has no money to pay for my expenses,” said the 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist.
With the Olympics three years away and no quota issue to deal with, Terras said he will be spending more time with his family.
“I am not taking part in many events this year as it is not an Olympic year,” the shooter from Marseille said.
Great Britain’s Jack Fairclough won the junior men’s skeet gold, with Kazakhstan’s Eduard Yechshenko and David Pochivalov taking the silver and bronze, respectively.
A function was organised yesterday in which the Qatar Shooting and Archery Association (QSAA) secretary general Majid al-Naimi felicitated the Qatar national team members who won medals at the recently concluded Arab Shooting Championship in Kuwait.
Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah celebrates after clinching a silver medal in the skeet event during the Qatar Open shooting at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday. PICTURE: Nasar T K