By Jordan Klein | July 27, 2019, 8 p.m. (ET)

Athletes compete in the shooting event at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 27, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

It started slowly, then grew faster and louder, reverberating off the stone walls as the athletes took their marks. Fans were packed into the indoor 10-meter air pistol stadium at the Base Aérea Las Palmas in Lima, Peru, slow-clapping in unison as if it were a sold-out soccer match.

The first shooting event at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 began in front of a standing-room only crowd, signaling the start of an exciting week for the USA Shooting team. Twenty-two American athletes will vie for the opportunity to earn quota spots at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“That’s what you get at a championship match in South America,” shooting athlete Nathalia Tobar said with a chuckle. “You know it’s going to be loud, and we trained with plenty of loud noise in Colorado Springs to prepare, but I felt like I was in an Olympic Games final today with all the noise.”

Two such quota spots were on the line in women’s 10m air pistol, with Nathalia Tobar representing Team USA in the final round. A 2003 Pan American Games bronze medalist, Tobar edged out fellow American Miglena Todorova by three points to earn the last qualification position in the event final. 

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Tobar saved her best shots for last, scoring a 20.6 in her final two shots of the competition. She placed eighth in the final, as Cuba’s Laina Perez claimed the top spot. Perez’s finish secured a quota spot for Cuba at the Tokyo Games, while Andrea Perez of Ecuador claimed the second quota spot and a silver medal in the event. 

As Tobar joined her coach following her elimination, fellow members of Team USA offered their support through a rousing round of applause. Among them was Dan Durben, head rifle coach for Team USA, his head continuously on a swivel as he marveled at the size of the crowd. His athletes will begin competition on Sunday, July 28.

“I figured I would come down and support Nathalia,” he said. “We’ve had an amazing time here so far. It’s been such a whirlwind.”

The whirlwind will continue to accelerate for Team USA in the coming days. Aside from the two quota spots on the line in the women’s 10m air pistol, eight additional quota spots are up for grabs throughout the remainder of the Games. Olympic champions Kim Rhode and Ginny Thrasher will be among the USA Shooting athletes eyeing podium positions in the days to come.

“The Pan American Games will be a critically important match for our team,” said USA Shooting’s Kevin Neuendorf. “Team USA is eager to prove itself with a mix of young and proven talent.”