Olson leaves on high note
The Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1 event at the London 2012 Paralympic Games was laden with favorites: Jonas Jakobsson, Zhang Cuiping, Dong Chao and the USA's Sergeant First Class Josh Olson (Spokane, Wash.), yet none of these greats made the podium in 2012. Olson finished in 12th after two difficult rounds with 579 points.
In a range known for its difficult conditions, the Royal Artillery Barracks proved to be the equalizer as some of the top shooters struggled with wind, light and Paralympic pressure. Olson, who was situated on the left-hand side of the range, dropped only four points after the third string and was in a good position for the final. He struggled from shots 30 to 40, losing five points as a distinct shadow split the target in the morning light. Olson rebounded in the fifth string with 100 points and then ended with 96 points.
"It was a tricky day-the winds were switching constantly and flags were blowing is every direction," said U.S. Paralympic Shooting coach Bob Foth. "After 50 shots, he was projected to be in the final, but I think the combination of timing [running short of time at the end] and the rhythm of shooting didn't work to his advantage. His strategy was well thought-out for today, he felt confident and knew what to expect and he did a good job preparing and dealing with the tough conditions in London. It was ultimately a dramatic match."
In a surprise performance, Abdulla Sultan Al Aryani won the first medal of the Paralympic Games for the United Arab Emirates with a gold in Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1. Al Aryani, a member of UAE's 2004 Olympic team, finished 14th in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing after recovering from a car accident that left him paralyzed below the waist. He shot 694.8 total points (592+102.8) for the gold medal. The silver medalist was Reinaldo Saavedra of Spain with 590 match points and 104.6 in the final to overtake the 2008 gold medalist Jonas Jakobsson of Sweden who finished fourth. Finally, the bronze medalist was Great Britian's Matthew Skelhon with 693.2 total points for his second Paralympic medal in London.