Shooters aim for glory at Rio 2016Nearly 150 athletes from more than 40 countries are in Brazil to vie for gold medals at the Olympic Shooting Centre. 07 Sep 2016
With contests closer than ever, records tumbling and standards rising all the time, 147 of the world’s best shooters are ready for the start of what is expected to be fierce competition at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games from Thursday (8 September).
Rio 2016 marks 40 years since shooting made its debut at the Toronto Paralympic Games in 1976. The growth and development of the sport continues to impress, with 15 qualification and finals world records broken at IPC Shooting World Cups in 2015.
Among the most prolific athletes are Australia’s Libby Kosmala and Sweden’s Jonas Jacobsson. The pair will be making their 12th and 10th appearance at a Paralympics Games, respectively. Both competitors will be out to extend their record medal haul with Jacobsson chasing a lucrative 18th gold medal, while Kosmala will be hoping to make it 12 medals to match her Paralympic appearances.
“A lot of people cannot believe that a woman in her seventies can still be competing at an international Olympic or Paralympic Games,” Kosmala said. “But rifle shooting is a sport where if you are still able to hold the rifle without any tremor, and you can still see well, you can still shoot very well.”
From seasoned shooters to the up-and-comers, they all share a common goal – Paralympic glory. At just 20 years of age the USA’s McKenna Dahl is a fresh face on the Paralympic scene, but she already has a mountain of experience under her belt and is vying for top honours in Rio.
“I expect this to be the hardest competition I have ever competed in, but standing at the top of the medal stand at the Paralympic Games has been a goal of mine for a very long time,” Dahl said.
Dahl will line up alongside New Zealand’s Michael Johnson, a former world and Paralympic champion. Johnson is hoping to regain his 2004 Athens Paralympic title for R4 (mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2), in which he holds the finals world record set in Poland last year.
“I am thrilled to be representing New Zealand at my fourth Paralympic Games,” said Johnson. “It’s a chance to finally put the past four years of hard training and competitions to work.”
Looking back at past performances, China dominated the medal table at London 2012 with four gold, one silver and three bronze medals. Cuiping Zhang was the most decorated athlete with two gold and one bronze.
Zhang is the defending champion in R2 (women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1) and the finals world record holder. However, Slovakia’s Veronika Vadovicova is the reigning world and European champion. Having missed out on the podium at London 2012, Vadovicova will be determined to improve on her performance in Rio.
Great Britain’s Matt Skelhon is also a top contender in the rifle SH1, particularly in R6 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH1). He set a new finals world record on his way to gold at the 2014 World Championships, adding to his qualification world record from his European title win in 2013.
South Korea will also be heavily represented in Rio with eleven athletes. The team topped the medal standings at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games with four gold, three silver and two bronze medals. Keep an eye on debutant Jinho Park, the R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1) world champion.
Over on the pistol range, Iran’s Sareh Javanmardidodmani was the bronze medallist in P2 (women’s 10m air pistol SH1) from London 2012 who went on to claim the world title and world record for both qualification and finals. Hungary’s Krisztina David finished behind the Iranian at the World Championships and has been steadily improving.
Javanmardidodmani is also the finals world holder in P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1).
The Iranian will face Turkish world champion Cevat Karagol.
Other athletes to watch out for in pistol include host nation hopefuls Debora Campos and Geraldo Rosenthal, who will be out to impress in front of their home crowd.
“Sometimes I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders, mainly because these are my home Games and I want to give my best in front of my family and friends,” Campos said.
“I am just very proud to be able to represent my country in Rio. Life in Brazil is so hard for many at the moment.
“I just hope that the Games will bring some joy to the Brazilian people.”
Shooting takes place at the Olympic Shooting Centre in Deodoro between 8-14 September.
Live results from the Rio 2016 shooting competition will be available at Paralympic.org.