Aug 13, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — Gabriele Rossetti made a golden addition to the family's medal collection.
The Mustache stole the show, however.
Rossetti was perfect while capturing gold in men's skeet, 24 years after his father took bronze in the same event. But it was mustachioed independent athlete Abdullah Al-Rashidi earned bronze and the fans' hearts Saturday at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
"I am happy. I don't know why they help me, but thank you," Al-Rashidi said.
First, Rossetti's story.
The 21-year-old Italian prodigy with deep-rooted skeet genes was the favorite heading into Rio, and he lived up to expectations — after surviving a shoot-off to get into the finals.
Needing to make up ground heading into the final day, Rossetti didn't miss a shot: 25 straight targets in the second qualifying stage, 12 more in the four-person shoot-off.
He hit all 16 semifinal targets and matched that against Sweden's Marcus Svensson in the gold medal match. Rossetti earned the gold when Svensson missed his final shot, giving the Italian a brighter medal than the bronze his father, Bruno, earned at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
"I didn't think about my father's medal before the competition, but now I have added to the family medal collection," Rossetti said.
The 52-year-old, who trains falcons when he's not shooting, has a long shooting history.
Al-Rashidi's Olympic debut came at the 1996 Atlanta Games and Rio was his sixth time on sport's biggest stage. A three-time world champion, he had never earned an Olympic medal, though; Rio was his first final.
Al-Rashidi was unable to compete for his country after Kuwait's national Olympic committee was suspended by the IOC for government interference. He and the other Kuwaiti athletes who qualified — double trap gold medalist Fehaid Al-Deehani among them — were allowed to compete as an independent team under the IOC flag.
Al-Rashidi tied as the top qualifier in Rio and became an instant fan favorite once the finals begin.
The capacity crowd, most of it Brazilian, latched on to the underdog in the Arsenal jersey — he liked the way it looked and felt — and cheered wildly when he was introduced and with every target he shattered.
Al-Rashidi played up to the adulation, waving his arms and pumping his fists to their cheers during introductions, spurring the fans even more.
Al-Rashidi ended the semifinals in a three-way tie with Denmark's Jesper Hansen and Stefan Nilsson, forcing a shoot-off for a spot in the bronze medal match. Al-Rashidi shot last in the threesome and the crowd knew he had a chance to move on after Hansen and Nilsson each missed one, screaming and waving flags before the Kuwaiti's turn.
Playing the showman again, he raised his gun in the air and flashed a thumb's up as the cheers continued. An official at Al-Rashidi's station tried to urge the Kuwaiti shooter to take his turn, but he shrugged and pointed at the crowd as if to say, "What am I supposed to do?"
He hit both shots, setting off another round of cheers and a shot at the bronze against Ukraine's Mikola Milchev.
Al-Rashidi was perfect in the bronze medal match.
Al-Rashidi raised his arms in the air, dropped to his knees and kissed the ground. He rose and threw his hat in the air as the crowd chanted in Portuguese: "Ole, ole, ole, Mustache!"
"We like his mustache, so we start to chant," one Brazilian fan said.
The man with the mustache — he actually trimmed it recently — soaked in the adulation, again raising his arms after receiving his bronze medal as another chant about his facial hair rang out across the Olympic Shooting Centre.
"I am Brazilian," Al-Rashidi said. "I am from Brazil."