Grandma Libby Guns for Gold

She might be a grandma of two, but Australia's Libby Kosmala is a cracking shot on the rifle range. 15 Apr 2012 By IPC

“In Beijing I missed out by a mil. It was so, so close. But I’m shooting better than I was in Beijing now so that’s good. It’s a good sign.”

At 7:30 a.m. on Good Friday the phone rang at Libby Kosmala’s house.

It was her coach calling to let her know she had been selected to represent Australia in Shooting at her 11th Paralympic Games.

“It was very exciting. I was very thrilled,” she said. “Especially, as I’ve been shooting very well this year. I’m quite delighted now. I’m looking forward to London,” she chuckled.

London 2012 will take Kosmala’s Paralympic journey full-circle, having competed in the 1984 Paralympic Games in Stoke Mandeville, not far from London.

“In 1984, I had four gold medals and four world records, so we’ll see what we can do this year,” she said.

In July, she will head to the same Stoke Mandeville venue for training. As this may be her last Paralympic Games, the grandma of two is going for gold.

“I don’t feel like the grandmother of the team, although I’m called grandmother by some of the competitors,” she laughed.

The 69-year-old said she’s physically on top form and certainly does not see her age as a disadvantage.

“Shooting is 95 per cent mental and 5 per cent physical. That’s why I say it’s not a disadvantage, but the advantage I expect is that I’ve got terrific experience. I like competition. I know all my competitors, and they’re all very young, most of them. I shoot against a lot of 25, 24, 23-year-olds.”

But Kosmala’s biggest rival will be much older than that. Great Britain’s Deanna Coates is 58 and has been competing since the 1984 Paralympic Games, when she won bronze and Kosmala took gold in the women’s Air Rifle 3 Positions 2-6.

“She’s been to six or seven Paralympics, so I know her very well. She’ll be one of my stronger competitors,” said Kosmala.

“She has a lot of determination and is keen to win.”

Her other rivals are likely to be much younger than her: 29-year-old Veronika Vadovicova from Slovakia and 36-year-old Natalie Smith, also from Australia.

“Natalie’s very new in the game. She’s only been in a wheelchair less than three years through an accident up in the country in Australia. She’s got a lot of talent, unbelievably amazing talent,” Kosmala said.

She also talks fondly of Vadovicova, who won gold in Beijing in the in R2 women's 10 m air rifle standing SH1.

“Whenever she sees me she comes up and gives me a hug and a kiss. I think she thinks I’m a bit like her mom in some ways because she’s very young.

“But she’s a very good little shooter, and I’ve watched her really advance and really move up the ranks from just a beginner to right through. That’s been really interesting to watch someone like her shoots so well.”

Kosmala has not won a Paralympic medal since 1988, but she has come very close. In Beijing, she came fourth in the Women's 10 m air rifle standing SH1.

“In Beijing I missed out by a mil. It was so, so close. But I’m shooting better than I was in Beijing now so that’s good. It’s a good sign.”

Kosmala recently won gold at the Australian Nationals in the R2 women's 10m Air Rifle standing SH1 and R3 mixed 10m Air Rifle prone SH1. She will compete in both events in London on 30 August and 1 September respectively.

“I will be fit, determined, very keen and concentrate really hard on my shots in London.”

And for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Kosmala feels a greater sense of equality than ever before in terms of attitudes towards the Paralympics.

“The fact that you’re competing in the same place as the Olympians goes to show that the disabled are not just ‘having a go’ now. They are real athletes and we are treated as real athletes, which is really first class.”

“Today, the media recognize us as athletes. We train as hard as the able-bodied athletes and work as hard.”

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