Martin Strempfl completed his domination at “TOPGUN” with a more than a convincing 2-0 whitewash of Milenko Sebic en-route to being crowned champion on Saturday, the culmination of indianshooting.com’s latest online competition.
From the start of the 10-day event, Martin was in sublime form with his Steyr Challenge E Air Rifle. He won the qualification match by a distance with a score of 636.6 (3.1 more than World Record), and was hardly tested by Israel’s Shiri Strenberg and World No 3 Lucas Kozeniesky of USA in the quarterfinal and semifinal respectively.
The final was expected to be a close affair with the experienced Serbian expected to test Austria’s Olympic quota winner. That could have happened had Milenko been in better shape. Apart from competing in “TOPGUN”, the Olympian took part in competitions in Croatia and Austria. This saw Milenko drive long hours as he competed in various stages of this competition from three countries. Though he shot from the comfort of his home range in the final, fatigue prevented him from giving his best.
If this played to Martin’s advantage, what swung the final firmly his way was the experience gained over the past few months in online competitions across platforms. The pressure of the ‘Race to 10’ is not for the faint hearted and for once even Martin succumbed to it towards the close of the first match. Rarely would a shooter at the top level score a point with a sub-10 score, but that’s what happened when Martin floundered with a 9.4 in response to Milenko’s 9.8. He went on to wrap it up with two high 10s to make it 10-7, but throughout shooters have stressed how this unique format is excellent preparation for ISSF events and the Olympics.
Milenko lost, but it was in no way a surrender. Like Martin, he too shot a sub-10 just once, but what made the difference was the intensity of his rival’s performance. Two perfect scores and six 10.8s are tough to reply to, and it was to Milenko’s credit that he fought back in the second match after Martin looked to be cruising with a 6-1 lead. The World Cup Final silver medallist paused to have a word with wife and coach Alina, and led him to close the gap to 5-7. “She told me to keep fighting, that made me feel better but it wasn’t enough,” said Milenko. “I arrived in Serbia from Austria at 2am and was tired, but it is not an excuse. It was a tough match,” he added. The hallmark of a top athlete is persistence and despite the fatigue Milenko will be turning up for his country’s national trials in 3 position on Sunday.
Martin wrapped up the final in the next three shots to cap a performance that was in sync with his stature as one of the best in the business, and the joy of coming out on top in a high-pressure situation was understandable. “I could feel my heart beat during every shot and the pressure of a final was real. There were a few shaky shots but this (“TOPGUN”) has been very good preparation for the forthcoming European Championships,” said Martin.