By Patrick Johnston
LONDON (Reuters) - Italian policewoman Jessica Rossi came within inches of the first perfect performance in the women's trap on Saturday, smashing the world record in collecting the gold medal at the London Games.
Rossi shot 99 of the 100 targets in the three qualifying sessions and 25 shot final to easily claim the gold at the Royal Artillery Barracks with four shots to spare.
"It is a dream come true after all these years," the 20-year-old Italian told reporters via a translator.
"I really wanted to bring home the record, I didn't lose my concentration even after that one missed shot, I knew I could do it."
The Italian hugged her coach in delight after her final shot before watching a three-way shootoff for the other medal positions.
Slovakia's Zuzana Stefecekova was second and Delphine Reau of France third with Alessandra Perilli of San Marino finishing fourth after all had 93 hits.
It was heartbreak for Perilli who missed out on what would have been the first Olympic medal for tiny San Marino.
"My objective was to reach the final and my heart was bursting," Perilli told reporters. "I felt like I could not cope with the emotion in the shoot-off. It was a dream for me, indescribable."
Rossi, though, claimed to suffer no pressure as she enjoyed her afternoon being cheered on by numerous Italian fans in the grand stand at the Barracks.
The 20-year-old, who won the world championships three years ago, was a picture of concentration as she drew pink smoke from the orange clays fired from the 15 trap machines located under the ground.
The various heights, angles, speeds and blustery weather proved no problem for the slight Italian from Crevalcore, near Bologna, as the five other finalists routinely missed.
Rossi was on track to complete a perfect 100th shot before missing with her 92nd effort, although she still did enough to eclipse the previous record mark of 96 set by Stefecekova in 2006.
"I was lucky there was no rain for me today so it was absolutely fine," the ever-positive Rossi said of the conditions in southeast London.
"I worked hard for this, there was no pressure at all."
Her rivals were in awe of the achievement.
"Today she had her own competition," Stefecekova told reporters of Rossi. "I don't know what she ate for breakfast."
Asked if anyone could score the perfect 100, the Slovak said 'Jessica'.
Rossi's coach Albano Pera said that training sessions on the English south coast had proved key in helping his charge to deal with the tricky conditions.
"Unbelievable. To score 24 in the final is very, very big and strong. She knew the (weather) problem and how to face it. When we went to Dorset, we practiced a lot in the rain."
(Reporting by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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