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Olympic Shooting, A Brief Overview

Sonja Benčina

Jul 7, 2021

As the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games draw closer, Aiming Art will dive into Olympic and Paralympic shooting. In this first part, we will do a brief overview of the sports’ history to see how the sport evolved from its beginnings and in part 2, we will do the same for the Paralympics!

From 1896 to 2021

olympic rings without rims

As you can imagine, the history of the shooting sport as was featured at the Olympic Games is varied. But although different events and disciplines came and went, except for only two Summer Olympics, shooting has been a part of the Olympic programme ever since the first modern games in 1896. In that year, Athens hosted 14 nations competing in only 9 sports. Shooting then consisted of 5 events, 2 with a rifle and 3 with a pistol, a total of 61 shooters from 7 nations participated, and Greece and the United States dominated the podiums. 25 m rapid fire pistol remains the only event that is still a part of the Olympic programme since 1896, while 50 m free pistol was removed from the programme after the 2016 Rio Olympics – this year will be the first year without this event.

Also removed from the programme will be the men’s 50 m prone rifle and the double trap. In the name of gender equality, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) instead lobbied for mixed team events in three existing disciplines – 10 m air rifle and air pistol, and trap. While we celebrate gender equality (which has also led to the number of shots fired being equal for men and women for the first time in Tokyo Olympics, while women were previously required to shoot less rounds in certain events), this decision forgets two things: a) eliminating events will eliminate shooters – both from the removed disciplines and from the sport in general, and b) as there was one single qualifying competition offering 2 quotas (the 2018 World Championship) for the mixed team events, only shooters with individual quotas will be able to participate – which is advantageous for the larger countries.

Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 will therefore see 12 individual events: 4 on rifle (50 m three positions men and women; 10 m air rifle men and women), 4 on pistol (25 m pistol women; 25 m rapid fire pistol men; 10 m air pistol men and women), and 4 on shotgun (trap men and women; skeet men and women). For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, we will also see 3 mixed team events (10 m air rifle; 10 m air pistol; trap). The nation with the most competitors will be China with 25, followed by the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) with 22, and the United States of America with 21 participants. The eyes of the shooting community will also be on team India with 15 participants as they have been very vocal about their goals and have showed great potential on numerous qualifying events.

To the 360 shooters, competing in 15 individual and mixed team events, team Aiming Art wishes not only luck but first and foremost the courage to show the world what they have been practicing for. In the end, there will only be 12 individual and 3 pairs of winners. The rest should remember the words of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics.


The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle,

the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

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2 thoughts on “Olympic Shooting, A Brief Overview”

  1. Thanks for this informative overview! As a beginner amateur shooter I’m slowly getting to know this sport and your website and practical pointers are very helpful.

    1. Hello, J!
      We are very happy to hear that you find our site helpful and will continue to write Practical Pointers that can help beginners, educate the general public, or improve advanced shooters so stay in touch!

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