Friday, August 8, 2008

Your guide to shooting at the Olympics...

(This was not written by me. Robert (Mke Penguin) over at our forum kindly wrote it here for the blog.)

Here are the top storylines in Olympic shooting:

China's gold rush?
The Beijing Shooting Range Hall could well be the site of China's first gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. The women's air rifle final takes place the first morning of Games, August 9, and the host country boasts the gold-medal favorite in reigning world and Olympic champion Du Li. Later that afternoon is the final of the men's air pistol, where another Chinese athlete, Peng Wei, is world champion. But it'll only be a matter of time before China earns a medal in one of its strongest sports. The country's first-ever Olympic gold medalist was a shooter (Xu Haifeng at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics). In Athens, China won four shooting gold medals, more than any other country, and nine medals overall, one less than medal count chart-topper Russia. China's 2004 totals each improved by one from the Sydney Games, where its eight medals and three gold were the most of any country. Look for further chart climbing in 2008: at the 2006 World Championships, athletes from China won 12 medals, five of them gold, in Olympic events. In the men's rapid-fire pistol and women's sport pistol, Chinese shooters finished 1-2. Athens Olympic air rifle champion Zhu Qinan won bronze at worlds, but remains atop the world rankings in that event, while Tan Zongliang defended his 2002 free pistol world title.

A good miss
At the Athens Olympics, Matt Emmons won gold in the men's smallbore rifle prone, the event in which he was 2002 world champion. Emmons actually had the chance to become a double gold medalist in 2004, but fired at the wrong target on his last shot in the smallbore rifle three-position final, relinquishing his lead and dropping to an eighth-place finish. Katerina Kurkova, a bronze medalist for the Czech team in 2004 in air rifle, met Emmons at a beer garden following his mishap. By the summer of 2007, the two were married and are both threats to win gold at the Games. Katerina, in recent competition, was the silver medalist at the 2006 World Championships and a gold medalist at the 2008 "Good Luck Beijing".

Switch to skeet
Two-time Olympic double trap gold medalist Kimberly Rhode made her fourth Olympic team in a less familiar discipline: skeet. Rhode was the youngest member the U.S. shooting delegation at the 1996 Atlanta Games when she won her first gold medal in the double trap event at age 17. After a bronze medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Rhode returned to the top step of the podium in Athens. Beginning in Beijing, double trap is no longer part of the Olympic program, so Rhode, who will be 29 at the Games, has switched to skeet. She won a World Cup event in Santo Domingo in early 2007 but finished 10th at the "Good Luck Beijing" event in April of 2008.

Still shooting
Bret Erickson will be 47 years old in Beijing, but advancing age hasn't stopped him from expanding his trophy case. At the 2006 World Championships, he won a bronze medal in trap to complete his world medal collection (double trap gold in 1990 and trap silver in 2001). Erickson competed in his third Olympic Games in 2004 just two months after suffering a heart blockage that required CPR from two fellow shooters and the subsequent installation of a pacemaker. Following the Athens Games, he retired from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and moved to Texas, where he coaches younger shooters in addition to training. These Games will be his last as he has said he wants to be a full-time coach after Beijing.

A mind game
If it works, Professor Peter Terry of the University of Southern Queensland (Australia) may become the hottest name in shooting preparation. In April of 2007, he was enlisted by Ireland to assist trap shooter Derek Burnett with an electroencephalogram (EEG). The EEG was used to measure Burnett's pre-shot brain wave activity. After shooting a couple rounds, it was determined that Burnett's pre-shot activity before hits differed from misses. "We trained his brain using neurofeedback, which rewards the activity associated with his best shots and inhibits the activity associated with his worst shots," Professor Terry told The Courier-Mail (Queensland, Australia). The results were positive; Burnett would go on to win silver medals at the Beretta Grand Prix (Italy) and the World Cup event in Slovenia later that year.

Description & Scoring Facts: Shooting Events

Rifle events
In the qualification rounds, competitors will shoot at a 10-ring target. The eight highest scores will advance to the finals -- each rifle event has separate, specific rules regarding how many shots are to be taken. In the finals, the 10 rings are sub-divided into 10 score zones (10.0-10.9, with 10.9 being the highest point total). The scores accumulated in the finals are added to the qualification score to produce the top marks in the event.

Pistol events
Scored the same way as rifle events, pistol events have two separate types of targets being used. The precision events (e.g. air and sport pistol) use a 10-ring system similar to the rifle events. The rapid fire event (men only) uses a larger 10-ring target, but only the five highest-scoring rings are used. Pistol shooters are to be standing and must use just one hand, unsupported, while competing. Eight competitors advance to every pistol final but the men's 25m rapid fire pistol, which has just six finalists.

Shotgun events
In the three shotgun events, the shooters will stand at designated stations and fire at clay targets that are released on or after the shooter's command. A referee must see one visible piece fall from the target for it to be a hit and to award a point to the shooter.

parts of this entry Copyright 2008 NBC Universal. All rights reserved.

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