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Natalie Rooney showed a steely nerve to claim the women’s trap shooting silver medal today, New Zealand’s first medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics Games.

Rooney had to contend with strong winds and the pressure of a shoot-off just to make the final, but looked serene and capable throughout a long and testing day.

She had her chances in the final, against Australian Catherine Skinner, leading 4-2 and still level-pegging at 5-5, 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8. Finally she faltered and the Australian eased away to win a thriller 12-11.

For Rooney, the silver medal will help erase memories of her disappointment in not getting to shoot at the 2012 London Olympic Games. She was chosen for those games, but New Zealand had qualified only one shooter and rifle shooter Ryan Taylor appealed and eventually got the nod.

Rooney, 28, has shot solidly at the last two Commonwealth Games, with fourth and fifth placings, but silver at the Olympic Games is a huge step up. She becomes only the second New Zealand shooter, after 1968 bronze medallist Ian Ballinger, to win an Olympic medal.

“I’m stoked. It’s an incredible feeling,” she said as supporters gathered around her. “Of course I’d like to have won the gold, but to come away with the silver still feels great.”

Rooney’s father, Gary, was watching from the stands.

She said a stint of several months training in Italy had set her up well for her shot at the Olympic Games.

“I haven’t had the best of luck in the past and to finally crack it at the Olympics is awesome.”

She described the early conditions as horrendous and said it was fortunate the wind died away somewhat before the final.

Six shooters from the field of 21 progressed through morning qualifying. Rooney went through fifth with a total of 68 from 75 shots. She had to survive a shoot-off against American Corey Cudgell to make the final. Cudgell missed her first shot and Rooney calmly made hers.

Then it was into the seesawing final. New Zealand was just waking up when the medallists were decided. What a nice welcome to the day Rooney gave them! 

Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Natalie Rooney Ian Ballinger
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