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Petersen wins men’s skeet title at World Cup Final after epic shoot-off with Mehelba as women’s gold goes to Orynbay

One of the greatest – and lengthiest - shoot-offs in ISSF history ended with Denmark’s Emil Petersen claiming the men’s skeet title at the Doha World Cup Final after beating Egypt’s Azmy Mehelba 26-25.

Mehelba’s frustration was to some extent assuaged by the later victory of his brother, Abdel Aziz, in an equally dramatic although far less extended men’s trap final – another historic element of this extraordinary day.

There was further novelty on Day Three given that the top four shooters in the men’s and women’s skeet and trap finals qualified for Saturday’s new super final format.

While Petersen, 25, had begun invincibly, scoring 20 out of 20 and maintaining his lead with 29 out of 30, Mehelba, world champion in 2022, took over the initiative to reach the last ten scheduled shots with a two-target lead over his Danish rival.

But two misses by the Egyptian and faultless shooting by Petersen saw the both men total 56 shots out of 60, bringing into play a shoot-off in the fading light.

By the time the pair had finished the floodlights at the Lusail Shooting Arena had been turned on and organisers must have been wondering if they were going to have to push back the time of the first trap final as the Dane and the Egyptian simply refused to give way to each other.

As the contest continued into the dusk of a day when temperatures of around 28C and a fitful wind had tested the mettle of all those on the course, it put one in mind of the neck-and-neck final sprint between Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat in the Sydney 2000 Olympic 10,000m final - or even the mammoth 1980 Wimbledon men’s final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

After looking odds-on for gold going into the final 10 scheduled shots, Mehelba had appeared momentarily despairing at having to endure additional drama, and he offered Petersen an early chance as his second pair of shots resulted in a hit and a miss.

But the Dane produced a miss and a hit in his responding pair, and the two then moved into an extended period of perfection.

Taking his turn at 15-15, Mehelba produced a hit and a miss to give Petersen another chance, but again the Dane missed and then hit. 16-16.

On they went without fail, all the way to 24-24, with the floodlights by now on.

In his next pair of efforts however Mehelba followed a hit with a miss, leaving him on 25 – just one ahead. As he walked back towards his coach he shrugged his shoulders as if awaiting his fate.

Once more the Dane – needing both shots to earn gold – stuck out his chin and gathered his composure before delivering the two hits that earned a victory that will be remembered and celebrated for many years.

Bronze had been claimed boldly by Italy’s Elia Sdruccioli, who needed to get all four of his sequence of shots to better the total of 35 achieved by Finland’s world No.1 and top qualifier Eetu Kallioinen.

The Finn would have gone through to the final three on bib number had the scores been level. Sdruccioli delivered – but could not challenge to two history men.

Earlier in the day there had been disappointment for the 52-year-old local hero Nasser Al-Attiyah, the bronze medallist at the London 2012 Olympics who this year earned a fifth title in the Dakar Rally, as he missed qualification for the final by two places.

Greece’s world champion Efthimios Mitas finished two places further back.

The preceding women’s skeet final, where shooters also had to deal with heat and blustery wind, was won in impressive fashion by Kazakhstan’s Assem Orynbay, who dominated from the start before holding off the late challenge of Italy’s Chiara Di Marziantonio by one shot – 51-50.

The 30-year-old world No.7 from Yntymak, who won the Asian Games title last year, was hoisted jubilantly into the air by her coach at the end of the competition.

Three-times Olympic champion and six-times Olympian Kimberly Rhode narrowly missed adding another medal to her vast collection at the age of 44, recovering from an uncertain start to miss out on reaching the medal stages through her qualifying bib number.

But bronze was claimed by her United States team-mate Dania Jo Vizzi.

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