After finishing his final 20 shots with perfect hits Saturday in Siggiewi, Malta, two-time Olympic champion Vincent Hancock pumped his fist in excitement.
He had captured another gold medal in world cup competition.
Hancock has thus far left no doubt he is the best in the world this season, an impressive feat after a 17-month break from international competition.
After competing at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, where he was unable to win a third straight Olympic gold in men’s skeet, Hancock placed fifth at the World Cup Final in October 2016 and then took the 2017 season off.
Returning at the Guadalajara World Cup in March in Mexico, Hancock won gold and equaled the world record of 59. In April, he again shot a 59 and claimed gold, this time in Changwon, South Korea.
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At the third world cup of the season on Saturday, Hancock captured his 19th career world cup medal and 10th gold. This is the first time he’s won three world cup golds in a season.
Hancock hit 56 of 60 targets in the final, defeating Azmy Mehelba of Egypt by two. Reigning Olympic and world champion Gabriele Rossetti of Italy was third.
Mehelba was ahead for much of the match, but Hancock managed to nail all 20 of his shots in the final third of the match, while the Egyptian missed his 50th, 54th and 59th to fall behind.
“This was definitely one of hardest competitions to shoot in,” Hancock told ISSF. “We had a lot of weather changes, sunlight was perfect, Malta is a beautiful country, but the wind was definitely a factor in the last few days. Today it kind of settled down a little bit, the targets were more consistent and we saw a lot of high scores today.
“Unfortunately in the final we all missed quite a few targets, there was a little bit of a glare because of the sun getting so low behind the high house.”
A 29-year-old father of two, Hancock’s next test will come on home turf as the final shotgun world cup is hosted July 9-19 in Tucson, Arizona. All three shooting disciplines then head to Changwon, where Hancock will seek a fourth world title, for the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 world championship.
Hancock won Team USA’s second medal of this world cup stop. Amber English claimed silver in women’s skeet on Friday.
The competition in Malta starts back up Monday with the first day of women’s trap. Competing for the U.S. are Ashley Carroll, Aeriel Skinner and Kayle Browning-Thomas.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is sports editor of the Cape Cod Times and a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.