Nurse battles past Covid and wins Olympic gold

He ain’t heavy: Javad Foroughi of Iran is lifted by his coach Mohsen Nasr Esfahani after winning the men’s 10m air pistol. — AP

TOKYO: Javad Foroughi spent his nights caring for gravely ill patients, doing everything he could to help them breathe. Many didn’t make it.

Foroughi contracted Covid-19 himself, recovered and feared he would catch it again while doing his job.

Amid all the horrors and difficulties, the shooter never let his goal blur from focus.

Now the Iranian nurse is an Olympic champion.

Unshaken in his first Games, Foroughi became Iran’s oldest medallist and set a record in the process, earning gold in the men’s 10m air pistol yesterday at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m very happy I did my job on both sides,” Foroughi said through an interpreter. “As a nurse, we battled Covid and it was very hard. As a shooter, I worked a lot the last two years for this moment.”

On the women’s side, Yang Qian won the first gold medal of the Games, setting an Olympic record in 10m air rifle with 251.8 points despite a shaky final shot.

Foroughi also set an Olympic record with 244.8 points, finishing 6.9 ahead of Serbia’s Damir Mikec. China’s Pang Wei, the 2008 gold medalist, took bronze.

The 41-year-old Foroughi surpasses Iranian weightlifter Mahmoud Namdjou, who was 38 when he got bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

The journey to the top step of the Olympic podium was an unlikely one.

Born with a defect that made his heart pump too hard, Foroughi was unable to participate in most sports growing up. Even shooting, which requires slowing the heart rate and steadying the nerves, was not an option.

Once he got his heart condition under control, he became hooked on shooting, learning to fire a pistol in the hospital basement. He trained after finishing his night shifts and turned himself into an elite shooter.

Foroughi won two World Cups earlier this year and arrived at Tokyo ranked fourth in the world. He qualified fifth and immediately jumped to the lead in the finals with a series of shots in the 10-ring. He led Mikec by 4.2 points entering the final two shots and celebrated the gold medal by waving his towel before kneeling on it to pray.

“I’m very happy that I received some success,” Foroughi said.

Yang Qian had a few emotions of her own after a close call and her worst shot of the finals.

Within 0.2 points of Russian Anastasiia Galashina, Yang Qian missed the centre ring on her final shot, a 9.8 that seemingly knocked her off the top step of the podium.

But as she was shooting, Galashina had a miscue of her own, hitting an 8.9 on her final shot as the limited crowd at Asaka Shooting Range let out a gasp.

“It’s unbelievable that I can be here,” Yang Qian said. “The competition was really tight, but I’m so happy that I could win.” — AP

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