China's Guo wins air pistol gold
Monday, 11 August 2008

BEIJING, Aug 10 ( - Guo Wenjun of China won the gold medal in the women's 10m air pistol on Sunday in a stirring final that produced an Olympics medals showdown between Russia and Georgia against the backdrop of a military conflict back home.

Georgia's Nino Salukvadze, who almost left the Games earlier on Sunday with her 35-member team over the conflict with Russia, took bronze behind Russia's Natalia Paderina in silver.

After putting down her pistol on her final shot she wiped tears from her eyes and moments later embraced her Russian rival, a former team mate in the Soviet Union.

Paderina, who had led after the qualifying round, may have been rattled when there was no applause as she was introduced to the crowd of 2,000 spectators. There had been warm applause for the other finalists and loud cheering for Guo.

Salukvadze, 39, took the bronze medal after moving up from fourth place after qualifying.

"It's a small victory for my people," Salukvadze told a news conference. "If the world were to draw any lessons from what I did there would never be any wars … We shouldn't really stoop so low to wage wars against each other."

Salukvadze, who won a silver medal in this event for the Soviet Union in 1988 and got gold in 1988 in the 25m event, had remained calm throughout the final and overtook Munkzul Tsogbadrah of Mongolia in the final to get on the podium.

She congratulated the Guo, 24, who set a new Olympic record in the final. Then Salukvadze and Paderina shook hands, embraced and kissed each other on the cheeks before the medals ceremony.

"We are friends indeed," Paderina said. "We've been shooting together for a long time. We are really friends and don't get mixed up in political things. Sports is not politics."

Salukvadze, one of 35 Olympic athletes from Georgia told by their president to stay in Beijing despite the conflict with Russia, said she was worried about the fate of her country.

"I've been really nervous," she told Reuters after collecting her medal. "Since yesterday I thought we would leave the Games. The Russian political leaders, our political leaders and other state political leaders should sit and talk about this."

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