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Paralympic Shooting, A Brief Overview

Sonja Benčina

Aug 9, 2021

Aiming Art is a firm believer in the fact that shooting is one of the few sports that are extremely inclusive. With rifles and pistols being able to adapt to all body types, small modifications and additional equipment also make it possible for Para athletes to shoot.

Takács Paving the Way

Karoly Takacs shooting at Melbourne

Shooting Para sport has been a part of the Paralympic games since 1976 Toronto Games (while the  first Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960). However, there was a Hungarian Para athlete, Károly Takács, paving the way for shooters with a disability already 28 years earlier. This excellent shooter suffered an injury during a military excercise and lost his right hand – his shooting hand! During recovery, he began secretly practicing with his left hand and was then able to qualify for the 1948 London Games where he took home gold in 25 m rapid fire pistol. As the third known physically disabled athlete to have competed in the Olympics, he went on to claim another gold in the same event four years later in Helsinki.

Classification and Events

Physically disabled shooters are divided into three categories:

SH1: pistol & rifle; they can support a firearm without a stand; men, women, and mixed events
SH2: rifle; they need a firearm support to shoot (see image below); only mixed events
(SH3 (do not participate in the Games): visually impaired shooters)

 

SH2 Para athlete with rifle on adapted chair
Slovenian SH2 Para athlete Franček Gorazd Tiršek, who won two silver medals in Paralympic Games (SH2 10m air rifle standing: 2012 London, 2016 Rio) with his specially adapted chair and spring support stand. Like other shooting equipment, the spring is also subject to strict regulations.

At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, a total of 154 Para athletes will compete in 13 medal events: 3 men events (SH1 10m air rifle standing, SH1 50m three positions, SH1 10m air pistol), 3 women events (SH1 10m air rifle standing, SH1 50m three positions, SH1 10m air pistol), and 7 mixed events (SH1 10m air rifle prone, SH1 50m rifle prone, SH2 10m air rifle standing, SH2 10m air rifle prone, SH2 50m rifle prone, SH1 25m pistol, SH1 50m pistol).

Among those competing for the title of Olympic Champion in SH2 categories will be New Zealander Michael Johnson. The 3-time Olympic medal winner in 10m air rifle standing (gold in 2004 Athens, bronze in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London) regrets not being able to compete internationally this past year and a half: “It reduces nervousness at big comps, it tests your performance, where domestic comps don’t really. You’re never going to feel the same pressure at home compared to international competitions. It also stops that social side of sport: not being able to see your other shooters, friends etc.”

We will see how this translates into scores. Judging from the recent high results from the Olympic Games, one extra year of practice and some (forced) rest did the athletes good.

New Zealand SH2 Para athlete Michael Johnson, who won 3 Olympic medals in 10m air rifle standing (gold in 2004 Athens, bronze in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London).


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