Ranked 90th in the world, the 33-year old student climbed atop of Baku’s podium, claiming San Marino’s first world cup gold ever in a men event.
Today’s Trap men final saw an odds-defying victory of San Marino’s Gian Marco Berti, during the last ISSF World Cup of the season held in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The 33-year old athlete, ranked 90th in the world, was definitely not one of the favorites on the start list of the competition, but still he managed to climb atop of the podium, beating the reigning world champion Erik Varga of Slovakia.
Berti qualified with 121 hits out of 125 targets, and then led the semi-final with 14 hits, making it into the gold medal match where he faced Varga, the winner of the 2014 and 2015 ISSF World Championships, currently ranked fourth in the world.
In spite of his lack of experience, Berti shot consistently through the gold medal match, missing only one target to finish tied to Varga with 14 hits out of 15 targets.
The two athletes advanced to a shoot-off to assign the brightest medal, which was decided in favor of San Marino’s finalist at the 10th target, when Varga missed putting himself in second.
Berti, a law student, had never won an ISSF medal, before. His best world cup finish in career had been a 63rd place recorded in Nicosia, back in 2013. Just two weeks ago, competing on his home turf at the ISSF World Cup in San Marino, he had closed the event in 81st place.
“That experience was really useful to me. Competing on my home ground, I felt a lot of stress and I shot bad. But as I learned a lot,” said Berti, commenting on that result.
“But today… Today’s is the match of my life,” he continued. “I am speechless. I can’t even realize how I made it.”
“Going into the medal match against such an established champion like Varga, gave me the motivation to shoot at my best, to prove to myself that I can make it.”
San Marino has gained three Olympic quota places for Rio 2016, probably a record for a small nation that can count on a pool of 31-thousand citizen only to select its team. Two quotas were won by the Perilli sisters, which have already booked their tickets to Rio, to compete in the women’s Trap event. One was won by Stefano Selva in the men’s Trap event at last year’s ISSF World Championship in Lonato, with a 5th place finish.
But Berti’s performance could turn the tables: will he get a chance to compete in Rio instead of Selva?
“I don’t know, I don’t want to think about it right now. That’s a decision of my coach Luca Di Mari,” he commented, wearing San Marino’s first world cup gold medal ever won in a men event.
Today’s Bronze medal went to Poland’s 28-year old first-time finalist Piotr Kowalczyk, who beat France’s Herve Boivin, 43, by 14 to 11 hits. The two athletes had advanced to the bronze medal match by winning a three-way shoot-off at the end of the semi-final, with 13+3 hits each.
Maksim Smykov of the Russian Federation, 23, and India’s Kynan Chenai, 25, placed in fifth and sixth place with 13+2 and 12 hits after the semi-final.