Cheongju 2018: Sixth shooting Para sport Worlds begin

The ranges are set for day one of competition at the 2018 World Shooting Para Sport Championships, which gets underway on Friday (4 May) in Cheongju, South Korea.

Eight days of sporting action will feature 223 athletes across 46 countries, going for medals in 13 individual events (four pistol and nine rifle events), plus team competitions.

Not only are world titles at stake, but also quota places for Tokyo 2020, as Cheongju is the first stop on the road to the next Paralympic Games.

Many medallists from Rio 2016 are returning to the big stage and rivalries will be renewed.

Slovakia’s Veronika Vadovicova is among the heavy medal favourites in Cheongju. The rifle specialist will compete in four individual events, including the two she claimed Paralympic golds in: R2 (women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1) and R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1). The Slovakian has been strong on the World Cup circuit since Rio, winning all but one of her R2 events.

But China’s Cuiping Zhang and Germany’s Natascha Hiltrop are among those who can challenge Vadovicova.

Hiltrop has taken too many silvers in the R3, including behind Vadovicova at Rio 2016, and could end that run in Cheongju.

Zhang ended as runner-up to Vadovicova in the R2 in Rio. But the Chinese athlete got revenge in the R8 (women’s 50m air rifle three positions SH1) and is aiming to add a world title to that Paralympic gold.

Zhang is also the reigning Paralympic champion in the R6 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH1). But UAE’s Abdulla Sultan Alaryani enters with World Cup momentum as a consistent podium finisher this season. He is also a Rio 2016 silver medallist.

Ukraine has a strong delegation, led by double-Paralympic champion Vasyl Kovalchuk. He will particularly target gold in the R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2). However, the USA’s McKenna Dahl is also a contender after becoming the first US shooter to win a Paralympic medal in the sport.

Kovalchuk’s compatriot Oleksii Denysiuk will try to bring his country glory in the pistol events. He made an impressive Games debut by capturing bronze the P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1) two years ago. But he will have to find a way past pistol queen Sareh Javanmardi. She has gone undefeated in the P4 since Rio 2016, where she made history by becoming the first Iranian female to win Paralympic gold in the sport; she also boasts gold in the P2 (women’s 10m air pistol SH1).

Cheongju 2018 is the sixth edition of the World Championships, and the second time the competition has returned to South Korea. The last edition was in 2014 in Suhl, Germany.

Geunsoo Kim could rally the most cheers from home fans. Kim was South Korea’s most successful Paralympic shooter in Rio, winning R5 silver and R4 bronze. Jinho Park is also aiming to get back to his best, and he might find that on home range when he takes on the R3 and R7 (men’s 50m rifle three positions SH1) – both of which he won gold in at last year’s World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand.

The 2018 World Shooting Para Sport Championships runs until 11 May.

A dazzling Opening Ceremony welcomed all participants with cultural performances on Thursday (3 May).

All finals will be streamed live on the International Paralympic Committee’s website, with live results available on World Shooting Para Sport’s website, as well as a full competition schedule.

Source: paralympic.org