Eleanor Bezzina put the 2011 GSSE heartache behind her yesterday when she produced a stellar performance to strike gold in the 10m Air Pistol shoot at the Tramsschapp ranges.
The bubbly shooter came into this year’s Games in Luxembourg with a point to prove after missing the cut for the final in Liechtenstein two years ago.
Bezzina looked focused on her objective.
Calm and composed, she was soon hitting consistent high scores of nine and 10 to qualify for the final on 361 points, just two adrift of favourite Cynthia Varriale-Bonardi, the Monaco markswoman, and nine behind defending champion Erini Panteli, of Cyprus.
In the final, all eight qualifiers had to start from scratch and it was at this juncture that Bezzina’s mental strength came to the fore.
She never looked tense, unlike her medal rivals Panteli and Varriale-Bonardi who surprisingly slipped out of contention in the early stages to leave Bezzina with a clear path to victory.
Bezzina put herself in sight of gold when producing a combined score of 21 in the eighth round to go four points clear of Iceland’s Jorunn Hardardottir.
That advantage was enough for Bezzina to hold on to top spot in the final round with an overall score of 191.2... 3.6 points better than Hardardottir as home shooter Jans Nancy staged a late comeback to beat Varriale-Bonardi for bronze with 165.7 points.
Bezzina said the gold medal was the perfect answer to her poor show in 2011.
“In Liechtenstein two years ago I failed to make the cut and that upset has been on my mind ever since,” she said.
“That’s why I was doubly motivated to settle the score once and for all here.
“With every shot I was taking they kept telling me that I was still in contention so I pushed myself to the limit.
“There were some doubts at first but I managed to keep my emotions in check throughout the shoot.”
Asked whether she was surprised to see the top contenders falter, Bezzina said it all depended on one’s form on the day.
“Panteli was the defending champion and the Monaco girl is one of the best shooters at this level. But in this sport one bad shot can prove costly.”
“Now, I want to enjoy this moment because we’ve all worked hard for it,” Bezzina added.
“This medal goes to my family and friends for their constant backing as well as the Malta Shooting Sport Federation and the other shooters in our team who have also been of tremendous support.”