Gold Medal Shooting Winner Dry-Fired for Practice

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has its first Olympic gold medal, thanks to the steady aim of 41-year-old Hoang Xuan Vihn, who rallied to beat hometown favorite Felipe Almeida Wu on the final shot of men’s 10-meter air pistol.

Hoang some serious obstacles to overcome. Wu was the crowd favorite, being the only Brazilian in the field, and the top-ranked shooter heading into the Rio games. This story from mercurynews.com says Hoang was serenaded with chants of "Wu!" from his introduction to his final shot.

Hoang's consistency overcame Wu's early lead in the elimination finals. Wu rallied at the end, hitting 10.2 to Hoang's 9.2 to take a .2-point lead on the penultimate shot before hitting a 10.1 on his final shot. But Hoang did a bit better, scoring a 10.7 to win the gold, his country's first after 64 years of Olympic competition, the story says.

It’s a feat made all the more impressive when you consider the fact that Hoang is short-sighted, and also has what would be considered substandard training conditions at home by most shooters.

This story from tuoitrenews.vn says the military colonel has had to "watch the bullets," which means using as few rounds as possible to practice. Vietnam has faced a shortage of ammo for its national shooting squads in recent years, leaving competitors no choice but to do without.

In the story, Nguyen Tan Nam, the head coach of the Hanoi shooting team, said 100 athletes in his squad haven't heard the sound of a gunshot for ages.

“As there is no ammunition, every day when they come here for training, the shooters just aims the gun, pull the trigger to hear the ‘tick’ sound, and that’s all,” he explained.

The fact that they use no ammo at all in practice, only in competition, means coaches have no way to evaluate their skills.

The story says some Hai Phong shooters held plastic bottles filled with sand to practice their aim.

Hoang Xuan Vihn
A lack of ammunition at home didn't stop Hoang Xuan Vihn from getting his country's very first Olympic gold. photo from tuoitrenewsweb photo

Even though the country's top shooters were each given 100 rounds a day for practice leading up to the Rio Games, they were still using paper targets, while all international competitions use electronic ones, the story says.

"Under these conditions, it is no surprise that Vietnam never grabbed an Olympic medal," Nguyen Hong Minh, who used to lead Team Vietnam at Olympic events, said in the story. "The gold medal of Vinh is truly exceptional."

Hoang is a two-time Olympian who also won his country’s first medal in shooting and took fourth in the 50-meter pistol at the 2012 London Games.

Wu said the noise created by the enthusiastic crowd rooting for him during crucial moments didn’t bother him. “It is just perfect,” Wu said of his conquest for Brazil. “I hope that the sport of shooting becomes more popular in Brazil.”

Bu Wu didn't have an easy time practicing either.

“(Wu) also noted the difficulties of training in Brazil, a country in the midst of its worst economic crisis in decades, and the high cost and long delay associated with importing ammunition.”

“Sometimes I have to wait a year to get my ammunition,” the silver-medal winner said.

Vietnam had previously won two Olympic medals: a silver in weightlifting in 2008, and another silver in Taekwondo in 2000.

“I am very happy to bring back the first gold medal for Vietnam,” Hoang said in the mercurynews.com story.

China’s Pang Wei, who won the gold medal in Beijing in 2008, took the bronze this time around, while defending Olympic champion Jin Jong-oh of South Korea had a bad start and placed 5th.