BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Russian marksman Sergai Alifirenko, gold medalist in men's 25-meter rapid fire pistol event at the Sydney Olympics, is out of the Beijing Olympics, said Oleg Lapkin, head coach of the Russian shooting squad on Tuesday.
"He had eye illness three weeks before the journey to China, which retarded him from shooting," said Lapkin at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range Hall, adding that Alifirenko was replaced by Leonid Ekimov.
A Lieutenant Colonel, the 49-year-old Alifirenko impressed spectators with his a set of unique ritual before opening fire-delivering the pistol with his left hand to the right, pressing the pistol at full tilt and stretching his right arm.
Since starting to practise shooting in 1970, the athlete with brown mustache has seized numerous medals and titles, including also a gold in the 2005 World Cup Final and a bronze at the Athens Olympic Games.
He appeared ambitious after grabbing gold at the Good Luck Beijing World Cup this April with absolute advantage, beating world champion, Chinese Zhang Penghui, and three-time Olympic gold medalist, German "shooting machine" Ralf Schumann.
"I still have four months to prepare," Alifirenko said after the competition. "That's enough. I hope it will turn out to be good."
Apparently feeling pity for Alifirenko, Lapkin said that as time was tight, they had to select his substitute from already decided Olympic participants.
Ekimov, 20, little known in the rapid fire pistol world arena, just won a gold medal of that discipline in the national competition. He will also take part in the men's 10-meter air pistol event in Beijing.