A tiny landlocked European country surrounded by Italy, San Marino enjoyed a breakout moment at Tokyo 2020 on Thursday, winning its first ever Olympic medal.
Shooter Alessandra Perilli – one of just five Sammarinese athletes at the Olympics – is the new hero of the microstate, which has a population of 34,000, after winning a bronze medal in the women’s trap.
Perilli’s victory ensured that San Marino is now the smallest country in history to win a medal at the Olympics.
“What a day to be Sammarinese,” tweeted the San Marino fan account.
Slovakia’s Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova, who hit 43 of her 50 targets to set an Olympic record, won gold, while Kayle Browning of Team USA took silver.
In 2012 Perilli became the first Sammarinese athlete, of either gender in any sport, to finish fourth or higher in an Olympic event, when she came fourth in trap at the Games in London.
The previous best result for a Sammarinese athlete at the Games was when shooter Franceso Nanni finished fifth in the 50m rifle prone at the Los Angeles 1984 Games.
“During the final, when the fifth shooter went out, I thought, I don’t want to be one more time in fourth place, so I have to make it,” Perilli told reporters.
“This is the first medal for me and for my country. We are a small country but very proud,” she said after the medal ceremony. “They [country] are for sure going crazy, crying. I don’t know, but for sure now they are.”
‘We won the medal together’
The 33-year-old Perilli took up shooting in 2001, when she was introduced to the sport by her father.
Her sister Arianna Perilli is also a shooter, who has represented both Italy and San Marino in the sport, and won gold in trap at the 2017 European Championships in Azerbaijan.
Perilli counts her sister as one of her sporting heroes, according to her profile on the Olympics website.
Between 2013 and 2014, Perilli took seven months away from the sport, after becoming pregnant with her son.
“We have gone through this whole process and we won the medal together as a team,” said Perilli as she reflected on her medal success.
“Now, the first person I’d like to say is thank you to is my coach, Luca Di Mari. We’ve really done a lot together. We’ve had ups and downs but we have succeeded together,” she said.
“But I think we’re like a big family, all of us together. And that is what I like the most. This is what helps us to win, and allows us to go forward,” she added.
Eyes on the prize
San Marino first took part in the Summer Games in 1960 at Rome.
It’s National Olympic Committee has always entered the most athletes in shooting, where its had its best results, but if Perilli had the weight of expectation on her shoulders, she didn’t show it.
“There was no pressure, but only support from my country, from my team, from my federation and the Olympic committee,” she said.
In an inspiring message to younger athletes she said, “Keep practising sports and dream.”
Perilli will next compete in the mixed team trap event on Saturday, alongside fellow Sammarinese shooter Gian Marco Berti.
Wrestler Myles Nazem Amine, judoka Paolo Persoglia, and swimmer Arianna Valloni are the other athletes in the San Marino team.