Shooting Para sport star Hiltrop reflects on career to date

The German athlete shares her favourite moments from the London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games 23 May 2024
Two female shooters side by side aiming for the target at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Hiltrop is a three-time Paralympic medallist in shooting Para sport.
ⒸToru Hanai/Getty Images
By AMP Media | For IPC

Germany's shooting Para sport star Natascha Hiltrop had won a silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games when her career five years later reached a new high. 

At Tokyo 2020, she upgraded her silver medal in the mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1 event to a gold medal. Winning a gold medal changed her life. 

"After I knew that I won the gold medal I was very happy and elated. Life afterwards got really hectic," Hiltrop said of her busy schedule after the Games.

With less than 100 days to go until the Paris 2024, the German champion is set to travel to Spain for the 2024 World Shooting Para Sport European Championships from 30 May, as she sets sights on competing at her fourth Paralympic Games.  


Love at first shot

The 31-year-old from Bonn, Germany, had picked up the sport aged 12 by a coincidence.

"It started when I was still in school," she said. "My brother's friend invited him to try out shooting at the local club and I tagged along. The coach gave me a rifle and it was love at first shot." 

She tried shooting with a pistol, but that only made her more convinced the rifle was her weapon of choice. Since then, shooting has been a big part of her life.

"It helped me improve my ability to concentrate and stay calm and through all the training and competitions I met many nice people, making friends from around the globe," Hiltrop said.



Paralympic debut

She made her first international competition at the 2010 IPC Shooting World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia – and her Paralympic debut two years later.

Despite leaving London 2012 with a sixth place as her best result, she still ranks it higher than her two other Games participations.

"I must say that London 2012 was my favourite Paralympic Games. Maybe because it was my first time participating," Hiltrop said. 

"The opening ceremony really left an impression. The excitement of the athletes before walking into the stadium was very contagious and it felt great."


Hiltrop says London 2012 was her favourite Games. @Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Her competitions had started the day after the ceremony, but she had refused to miss it.

"I knew that getting in the final was not possible for me, and not knowing whether my first Paralympic Games would also be my last, I wanted to experience the opening ceremony at least once," she said.

At Rio 2016 she was more focused on the result and skipped the Opening Ceremony, which made her second Games feel more "like any other competition". Result-wise, however, it was a success as she left Brazil with her first Paralympic medal. 

"It was a confirmation that all the work that was put in paid off, which is always a good feeling," Hiltrop said. "The fact that my mother was sitting behind me in the audience and that she could witness this moment also made me very happy." 

She thanks her family for having supported her to the very top of the world.

"Many people helped me on the way," Hiltrop said. "The biggest contributor would be my father who, knowing his somewhat lazy daughter well, always tried to motivate me in my teenage years to not skip training. It didn't always work, but more often than not." 


From silver to gold

She had dreamed about going to Japan for a long time. Coming there as a Paralympic silver medallist was different, however, as the pandemic had forced Tokyo 2020 to be held under strict measures. 

"Years before I was really excited to go to Japan and it was a real pity that we weren't able to leave the Village because of the pandemic," Hiltrop said. "But the Japanese volunteers and Games staff really did their best and also tried to compensate for the missing audience by cheering us on." 

At Tokyo 2020, Hiltrop became the first German shooting Para sport athlete in 17 years to claim gold in the sport. She said she finished first because she "did not give up or lose hope". 

Hiltrop, centre, won her first gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. @Hiroki Nishioka for World Shooting Para Sport

"In the final I made a blunder and shot a 9. Normally that would probably be the end of it but it's a final, everyone is stressed and it can happen to anyone, which it did. So a little bit of luck was also a factor,” said Hiltrop, who also added a silver medal in the women's 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 to her ever-growing collection.  

Looking back at her third Paralympic Games however, one of the fondest moments came after the competitions had ended. 

"My strongest memory is that I had the honour to carry the national flag of Germany into the stadium during the closing ceremony," she said.