Sergey Martynov shoots like a champion

Marksman Sergey Martynov has brought the first gold medal to Belarus, being unrivalled in the 50m rifle prone
By Sergey Klimushkin

With a world record of 600 points, Martynov easily proved his supremacy in the first round, and achieved another record — 705.5 points — in the final. The President’s greeting reads: ‘I heartily congratulate you on such a bright performance, which has brought the first gold medal to the Belarusian team at the 2012 Olympic Games. I’m convinced that your victory will inspire our Olympians to further sporting achievements.’

President Lukashenko noted that Sergey Martynov’s performance has brought happiness to fans of the sport worldwide, while showing his determination and true skill. Martynov is a true ‘professor’ of shooting and has long been ‘related’ to a rifle. Lying in a prone position seems to be the same as lying on the sofa for him! Of course, we can only guess at his real inner feelings and what may be hidden behind his external calm.

As I watched Sergey mount the podium to collect his medal, I couldn’t help recalling our recent meeting in frostbitten February, when Martynov was training in Minsk’s Gai Street. I went to interview him and, of course, we tackled the forthcoming summer Games. At the end of our conversation, I asked him about his feelings on going to London and he responded that he held hopes but wasn’t indulging in ‘any thoughts at all’. I understood what he meant since an ideal marksman must be able to switch off and simply shoot, undistracted by thoughts of medals or points. He can flick a switch, hear a crack and claim a gold medal without excessive words.

Even during the morning Olympic qualification round, Martynov inspired correspondents from all over the world to speak of him with adoration and admiration, repeating the world record of 600 points (the maximum amount). He has managed to do this six times during his rich career and sees nothing surprising in it. Shrugging his shoulders, he noted, “Yes, I’ve scored. What of it? Frankly, it was only exciting near the end, when the thought of missing tickles your nerves.” However, this is the first time that Martynov has shot so accurately at an Olympiad.  

Before London, he has attended five Olympic Games: from Seoul in 1988 and all the others — except Barcelona in 1992. His most successful were those held in Sydney and Athens — where he claimed two bronze medals. However, he failed to do well in Beijing and only finished 8th in the finals in his ‘favourite’ event — after coming 6th in the previous round.

“It’s very difficult in our sport to win and almost impossible to forecast the result. So many are at approximately the same level — some 30 people are aiming for victory. Before this, I hadn’t won an Olympiad. I haven’t even been European champion, although I’ve been world champion twice. My luck may be changing,” he smiles.

This time, everything went perfectly, creating a ‘royal flush’. Martynov’s hawk eye and steady hand combined to bring Olympic gold, which was fantastic, although good fortune also played a hand. “Many factors need to coincide for victory. In addition, you need to be lucky, doing everything well while your opponents fail,” he admits.

At the Royal Artillery Barracks, we saw the strong nerves of all those taking part; it quite sent shivers down the spine. The fate of the medals seemed a little uncertain but Martynov kept his cool and dominated on the day, leaving no chance of gold to the others. The world’s most accurate marksman clearly lives in Belarus.
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