Age no bar to dreams of shooting gold
Posted: Saturday August 7, 2004 5:29PM; Updated: Saturday August 7, 2004 5:29PM
LONDON, Aug 6 (Reuters) -- Shooting will have 17 Olympic titles on offer, although this number will be reduced by two in Beijing, and the first gold of the whole Athens Games will probably be awarded in the women's air rifle.
The United States is by far the most successful shooting nation in Olympic history and medal winners are often much older than in other sports.
In Sydney gold medals were spread among 13 nations with China the most successful, winning three.
Australia will provide two of the best stories of the shooting competition. At 56, mother-of-six Annette Woodward will be the country's oldest Olympian for 28 years when she takes part in the 25-metre pistol event.
In the men's double trap, Michael Diamond will defend his title after winning a protracted battle to gain a place in the Athens team. He missed the Olympic trials after being charged with assault and firearm offences.
China's Gao Jing, bronze medallist in Sydney, is among the favourites in the women's air rifle with Germany's Sonja Pfeilschifter and world and European champion Katerina Kurkova of the Czech Republic.
Sydney gold medallist Franck Dumoulin of France will face tough competition from European champion Mikhail Nestruev of Russia in the men's 10-metre air pistol, also taking place on the first day of competition on August 14.
North Koreans Kim Jong-su and Jin Jong-oh will head the strong Asian challenge.
The shooting competition has grown at every Olympics since Moscow in 1980 when it had nine events.
Olympic officials are keen to cut the size of the Games and women's double trap and running target for men will be cut from the programme in Beijing.
The Athens Games will also be the last where rifle shooters can wear stiff, canvas trousers which the ruling body wants to outlaw because they reduce movement and thus artificially improve scores.
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