What is Shooting Para Sport?
In this precision sport, athletes use focus and controlled breathing to reduce their heart rates and improve stability and high performance.
This ability to steady hand and mind to deliver a sequence of shots requires well-developed powers of concentration and emotional control.
Athletes compete in events from distances of 10m, 25m and 50m in men’s, women’s and mixed competition events.
Of the 12 Paralympic shooting events, six are open to both women and men, three are open to women only and three are open to men only.
The sport follows rules of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) in conjunction with its own IPC Shooting Technical Rules and Regulations, which take into account considerations for Para athletes in shooting sport.
In 2010 the IPC and the ISSF signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate and work together in developing shooting sport; the agreement covers several areas including management, promotion of competitions and events, knowledge exchange, and education of technical officials.
Classification provides a structure for competition. Athletes competing in Para sports have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage. Consequently, a system has to be put in place to minimise the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. This system is called ‘classification’.
To best ensure an environment of fair and equal competition, Para athletes are placed in categories for competition based on their impairment, these are called ‘sport classes’. Within sport classes, athletes are grouped by the degree of activity limitation resulting from the impairment. As sports require different activities, the impact of the impairment on each sport also differs. Therefore, for classification to minimise the impact of impairment on sport performance, classification must be sport-specific.
In Shooting, athletes compete in 3 sport classes:
SH1 (Pistol): athletes in this sport class have an impairment in the lower limb(s) and/or in the upper limb in the non-shooting arm. SH1 Pistol athletes are able to support the full weight of the pistol, and compete either in a standing or sitting position (from a wheelchair or shooting chair).
SH1 (Rifle): athletes in this sport class have an impairment in the lower limb(s). SH1 Rifle athletes are able to support the full weight of the rifle, and compete either in a standing or sitting position (from a wheelchair or shooting chair).
SH2 (Rifle): athletes in this sport class have an impairment in the upper limb(s) which prevents them from supporting the full weight of the rifle. Athletes therefore use a spring-mounted stand which helps to support the weight of the rifle; however the athlete must fully stabilise, guide and control the rifle in the aiming process. Depending on their impairment, some athletes in this class may also require an assistant to load the rifle. Many SH2 athletes also have an impairment in the lower limb(s) and so compete in a sitting position either from a wheelchair or shooting chair.
The competition format is very similar to that of able-bodied shooting sport - the goal of shooting is to place a series of shots inside the centre ring (‘bullseye’) of the target. The target is comprised of 10 concentric scoring rings with a score grade of 1 to 10; the central ring giving 10 points. In many events - to showcase the athletes' skill and accuracy - the scoring rings are each further subdivided into a further 10 scoring zones to give decimal scoring system, with 10.9 being the very centre of the target and the highest possible score per shot. To give you an idea of the level of the accuracy required, in air rifle events athletes fire at a bulls-eye which is only 0.05cm wide - which is as big as a full-stop on a printed page!
Shooting competitions are divided into two disciplines: rifle and pistol, with competitions at three distances: 10m, 25m and 50m.
The rules (including the number of shots and the time limit) depend on the firearm (.177 air or .22 smallbore calibre), the distance, the target, or the shooting position.
Scores for each shot in the qualification round are accumulated to give the athlete a total score. The top eight athletes in the qualification round qualify for the final, however qualification scores are not carried over into the final, meaning each finalist starts from zero. In an exciting test of nerves, skill and focus, athletes with the lowest scores are eliminated over the course of a final, until a duel between the two remaining athletes for gold and silver medals ensues.