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Germany's Natascha Hiltrop claims IPC Athlete of the Month accolade
Germany's 21-year-old shooting athlete Natascha Hiltrop was voted the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) Athlete of the Month for October after upsetting the field to claim gold in the R3 event (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1) at the IPC Shooting European Championships in Alicante, Spain.
Hiltrop, who received more than 40 per cent of the public's vote for the honour, beat French Paralympic champion Cedric Fevre and British favourite Matt Skelhon en route to her first European title.
The Bonn native actually started her first series at Alicante's R3 event poorly, allowing Slovakia's Veronika Vadovicova to storm into the lead with two 10.9's.
The Slovakian remained in the lead for most of the final, as Fevre was ousted in a shock elimination and Skelhon managed to survive until round eight, when he was forced to leave the firing line having never quite got into his rhythm.
Hiltrop all the while was biding her time, making her move in the final two rounds with a 10.9, 10.6, 10.8, and 10.5, putting pressure on Vadovicova who shot a 10.4 and a 10.8 followed by another 10.4 and 10.7, leaving only a 0.2 gap between the gold and silver medal winners.
"I really can't believe it," Hitrop told Paralympic.org after her victory. "I'm really happy and excited and totally exhausted now.
"At the beginning I was a bit afraid because of the 9.6 or something like that but I just concentrated and shot. It's like a dream."
Hiltrop was one of 14 athletes who claimed an individual title at the Championships, which drew 175 shooters from more than 30 countries in rifle and pistol events.
She will have the chance to go for gold again on the international stage when her home country hosts the 2014 IPC Shooting World Championships in Suhl from 19-26 July next year.
In addition to Hiltrop, other finalists for the IPC Athlete of the Month award included: British table tennis player Robert Davies, Chinese table tennis player Panfeng Feng, Thai boccia athlete Witsanu Huadpradit, Swedish shooter Jonas Jacobsson and South Korean ice sledge hockey player Seung-Hwan Jung.
Nominations for IPC Athlete of the Month are compiled from submissions by National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) and International Federations (IFs).