Consistency, focus and a steady heart rate all under extreme pressure sets these 10 shooting Para sport athletes apart at Tokyo 2020:
Cuiping Zhang (CHN)
Now nearly 20 years into her career, Zhang has won virtually every title up for grabs in the sport. She has medaled at every Paralympic Games since being recruited for the Chinese national team ahead of Beijing 2008 and won two gold medals each at London 2012 and Rio 2016. Her most recent Paralympic success saw her win titles in the R6 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH1) and R8 (women’s 50m sport rifle 3 positions SH1).
Zhang is responsible for nearly one-quarter of all of China’s 36 shooting Para sport medals, with nine (4 golds, 3 silvers, 2 bronze) over three Paralympic Games, establishing World and Paralympic records along the way.
Michael Johnson (NZL)
Johnson will be competing in his fifth straight Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The Kiwi made a name for himself by reaching the top of the podium at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens in the R4 (mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2). He followed that up with golds at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships.
The long-time ‘Wonder from Down Under’ has added two more Paralympic bronze medals (2008, 2012) and four more World Championship medals. New Zealand’s flagbearer at London 2012 now splits his time coaching and recruiting athletes, in addition to winning international medals.
Sareh Javanmardi (IRI)
Javanmardi picked up bronze at London 2012, but she really burst into the scenes four years later, adding two Paralympic gold medals and three world titles to her collection. Her achievement at the 2018 World Championships, saw her win both P2 (women’s 10 air pistol SH1) and P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1) events in comeback fashion. However, she did face a setback at the 2019 Worlds, taking runner-up in the P2 and not reaching the podium in the P4.
But the Iranian showed she has every intent to hold onto her Paralympic titles in Tokyo. Earlier this year, she set a world record in the P2 to win the event at the Al Ain World Cup.
Manish Narwal (IND)
Part of shooting Para sport’s new generation of young stars, India’s teenage star announced his arrival by winning gold at the 2018 Asian Para Games in the P1 (men's 10m air pistol SH1); he also captured silver in the P4 (mixed 50m pistol SH1). Since then, Narwal has added two World Championship bronze medals and, earlier this year, showed just why he will be tough to beat in Tokyo by setting a world record in the P4 on his way to victory at the Al Ain World Cup. This will be Narwal’s first Paralympic Games and, at just 19 years old, expect to see more of him.
Manish Narwal (left) ©Durbravka Krmpota
Veronika Vadovicova (SVK)
A veteran and legend in the making, Vadovicova made her international debut in 1999 and has consistently been the one many rifle shooters are aiming to beat. One of the sport’s all-time greats, the Slovakian continues to bat away challengers as she goes up against the sport’s next generation of stars. She will be looking to add a fourth Paralympic title in Tokyo, at her sixth straight Paralympic Games.
Along the way she has set – and still holds – many records, including world and Paralympic, and an incredible seven World Cup titles in 2017 alone. Expected to compete at almost every rifle event in Tokyo, she will enter as the defending champion in the R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1) and R2 (women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1). Her 2019 Worlds was not her strongest showing, leaving with only one gold in her four individual events – the R2 (women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1). But expect her to remain sharp as ever this summer.
©Cheongju 2018 LOC
Bolo Triyanto (INA)
Triyanto continues to prove why it is never too late to chase your dreams. He came to shooting Para sport after finishing his career in athletics to compete at the 2015 ASEAN Para Games. There to more than just compete, Triyanto returned home with a pair of medals, silver in R4 (mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2) and bronze in the R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2). While he missed out on the podium at his home 2018 Asian Para Games, he recently posted a top-five finish at this summer’s Lima World Cup. Triyanto trains with his wife, who also competes for the Indonesian national team and is hoping to join him in competing at this summer’s Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Iryna Shchetnik (UKR)
If there is anyone looking to assume Veronika Vadovicova’s mantle as the top rifle athlete in the sport, 21-year-old Shchetnik could be that one. Not even born yet when her rival made her first splash on the international scene, Shchetnik stunned Vadovicova to capture her first European crown in 2018, setting a world record in the process in the R2 (women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1). She showed she is in top form by cashing in at the Lima World Cup in June, collecting five medals, including three golds. Although her Slovakian rival left her with R2 silver at the 2019 Worlds, Shchetnik has much to show at her Paralympic debut in Tokyo.
©World Shooting Para Sport
Joackim Norberg (SWE)
The Swede exploded onto the international scene at the 2014 World Championships with a double win in P3 (mixed 25m pistol SH1) and P5 (mixed 10m air pistol SH1) in only his second year of competitive shooting. His biggest career achievement came when he captured silver in P3 at Rio 2016. The athlete nicknamed ‘hot shot’ has remained a constant podium threat in the pistol discipline.
McKenna Dahl (USA)
Dahl made US history by becoming the first athlete from her country since 2004 to win a Paralympic medal in the sport with bronze in the R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2) at Rio 2016. Dahl confidently won the R9 (mixed 50m air rifle prone SH2) at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games. She also picked up a silver in the R4 (mixed 10m air rifle standing SH2), proving to be one of the region’s star athletes and medal hopefuls at Tokyo 2020.
Abdulla Sultan Alaryani (UAE)
Alaryani was once known as the “King of the 50 metres,” and for good reason, medalling in the distance at both the Rio 2016 and London 2012 Paralympics. His gold in the R6 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH1) in London got things started, and Alaryani has remained a force to be reckoned with since.
He won three silver medals in Rio – R6, R7 (men’s 50m rifle 3 positions SH1) and R1 (men’s 10m air rifle standing SH1), and no doubt he hopes to turn those into gold at Tokyo 2020. He has proven he can, especially after a memorable performance at the 2018 World Championships. In the R7, Alaryani battled illness to win by more than 10 points. He also won the R6, once again showing his sharpness in the 50m.