First gold medal to Katerina Emmons

Today, Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic  won the first gold medal of the Beijing Olympic Games in the10  m air rifle shooting event. IOC President Jacques Rogge handed over the medal, with the silver being awarded to Lioubov Galkina of Russia  and the bronze medal to Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia  . Shooting has enriched Olympic history with many extraordinary athletes and stories.

The older, the better

Shooting is one of the original sports of the modern Olympic Games. In the early days, the rapid-fire pistol event was contested with duelling pistols, the target was the silhouette of a human dummy dressed in a frock-coat and the bull’s eye was the middle of the thorax. In 1908, Ireland’s Colonel Joshua “Jerry” Millner won the free rifle event at the age of 61, and he is still the oldest winner of an individual Olympic event in any sport. Twelve years later in Antwerp, in the Running Deer double shot team event, 72-year-old Oscar Swahn of Sweden became not only the oldest ever Olympic competitor but also, with a silver, the oldest medallist.

Takács’ unbelievable story

Moving on to 1948 in London. and the remarkable story of Károly Takács. Takács was a member of the Hungarian world champion pistol shooting team in 1938 when, while serving as a sergeant in the army, a grenade exploded in his right hand – his pistol hand – and shattered it completely. Undaunted, Takács taught himself to shoot with his left hand, and ten years later he not only qualified for the rapid-fire pistol event, he won it and beat the world record by ten points.

The “barefoot doctor”

Four years later in the small-bore rifle, prone, Iosif Sârbu became Romania’s first Olympic champion. In 1968, Eulalia Roliñska of Poland and Gladys de Seminario of Peru were the first women to compete in Olympic shooting, and, 16 years later in the free pistol event, Xu Haifeng, a former “barefoot doctor” and chemical fertilizer salesman, became not only the first winner at the 1984 Olympic Games, but also the first representative of China to win an Olympic medal. In 1992, his compatriot Zhang Shan, a 24-year-old from Nanchong in Sichuan province, became the first female shooter to win a mixed competition at the Games.

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