The 2018 European 10m Championships will round off an exciting year in shooting Para sport, as action begins on Tuesday (4 December) in Belgrade, Serbia.
The regional competition returns for the first time since 2013, with 122 athletes from 27 countries contending over 16 medal events, including eight individual titles.
The most popular name to watch is Slovakia’s multi-Paralympic and world champion Veronika Vadovicova.
The 35-year-old owns the Rio 2016 titles in the R2 (women’s air rifle standing SH1) and R3 (mixed air rifle prone SH1). She reaffirmed her grip on the R3 in May, after capturing the World Championship gold medal in Cheongju, South Korea. Vadovicova came up short of another world gold in the R2, but Belgrade is an opportunity for redemption.
But Vadovicova will have to hold off two younger talents in the R2.
Iryna Shchetnik had an outstanding World Championship debut earlier this year, and the Ukrainian teenager could challenge Vadovicova in the R2. At 19 years old, Shchetnik already owns a Worlds bronze in the event. Germany’s Natascha Hiltrop has also been a regular podium finisher on the World Cup stage, and most recently showed her potential by taking silver at the latest competition in September in Chateauroux, France.
Shchetnik is not the only name from Ukraine to watch for.
The nation is one of three sending the biggest delegation with 12 athletes.
Pistol specialist Oleksii Denysiuk will aim for golds in the P1 (men’s air pistol SH1) and P5 (mixed air pistol standard SH1). Although the longer distances are his strength, the Ukrainian will try to collect his first major title in a 10m event; he won P5 bronze at Cheongju 2018.
His compatriot Iryna Liakhu brings loads of experience, as she had competed at the last Europeans in Alicante, Spain. In Cheongju, Liakhu fell short of a victory in the P2 (women’s air pistol SH1). She will also contend with Denysiuk in the P5.
SMALL IN NUMBERS, BIG IN MEDALS
Slovakia might not have as big a team as Ukraine, but the nation will field three world champions.
Apart from Vadovicova, reigning world champion Radoslav Malenovsky comes in as the favourite in the R1 (men’s 10 air rifle standing SH1).
Teenager Kristina Funkova made a blast in her Worlds debut, taking gold in the R9 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH2). The R9 event will not be contested in Belgrade, but the 17-year-old showed her potential and will test her form in the R5 (mixed air rifle prone SH2).
She will have her work cut out for her, as all three Cheongju 2018 medallist are in Belgrade.
Serbian and home favourite Dragan Ristic is the world champion, while Ukraine’s runner-up Vitalii Plakushchyi and Turkey’s bronze medallist Hakab Cevik are all targeting the same prize.
The 2018 Belgrade European 10m Championships run until Thursday (6 December). Live results are available on World Shooting Para Sport’s website https://www.paralympic.org/shooting/live-results