Posted by Patrick (126.96.36.199) on July 16, 2007 at 21:23:04:
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CP) - In the time it took to fire off 10 rounds, Avianna Chao was bound for Beijing, earning a trip back to her country of birth to compete in the 2008 Summer Games.
The Toronto shooter won gold in the 10-metre air pistol at the Pan American Games on Monday, and with it, a spot in the Olympics.
"This is unbelievable," Chao said. "I feel like I'm in a dream and I haven't woken up. And I don't want to wake up."
Chao won a nail-biting final with a score of 468.9 to edge Luisa Maida of El Salvador, who was second at 467.9. Kirenia Bello Trujillo of Cuba took the bronze with 467.5, narrowly beating Dorothy Ludwig of Langley, B.C., who was fourth with 467.3.
The 32-year-old Chao was born in Wuhan, China, and her family moved to Canada when she was 11 so her mother Lien could pursue her PhD in Canadian literature at York University.
Chao still has dozens of relatives in China and she's thrilled they'll be there to cheer her on in Beijing.
"I hope to make both my countries proud - Canada being my home now and then my family in China," she said.
The Pan Ams represented Chao's last chance to qualify for Beijing. There had been several opportunities over the past couple of years - a win in any of the four World Cup competitions would have been enough.
But shooting is a self-funded sport, and money for travel is tight. Chao also works full-time as a computer engineer.
"We obviously can't go to every World Cup," said Chao. "My boss is very understanding, but I can't take five months of the year off to compete."
Monday's shooting competition was a close race right up until the last shot was fired, Chao trailing Ludwig in second place heading into the final at the Deodoro Sports Complex.
"I was actually fairly relaxed going into the final, I didn't feel there was much pressure," said Chao. "I think the pressure was more on first place, who also happened to be my teammate.
"That's something I've been working quite a lot on . . . deep breathing, staying relaxed, just letting it happen, not getting nervous. Being nervous in shooting just makes it worse."
Chao kept her cool through the final en route to victory.
"It was a very tight final, the scores were very close, although I preferred not to look at the scores," said Chao. "It's a 10-shot final, and I'm sure during the 10-shot series, there were people moving up, moving down, moving up, moving down. The best thing to do was just to concentrate on the job."
Chao finished fourth in the 25-metre pistol at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
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