Of course, there are great overcoming-adversity stories throughout Olympics history — and the shooting events are no exception. Take competitor Karoly Takacs. In 1938, he was a member of the Hungarian world champion pistol shooting team, but that year an army grenade exploded in his right hand. Ten years later, however, after teaching himself to shoot left-handed, Takacs made a comeback, winning the first two gold medals in rapid-fire pistol shooting.
It’s hard not to have the Games on the brain right about now, and I spent some time today picking around the 2008 Olympics Web site, reading Takacs’ story and learning another thing or two.
Shooting first appeared as an Olympic event in 1896, and although the program has varied from year to year, and not been held at certain Games, it’s been relatively standardized since WWII. This year’s Summer Games in Beijing include competition in events such as 10m air pistol, 25m rapid fire pistol, trap, double trap and skeet.
Of course, all these events have male and female divisions — but that hasn’t always been the case. Women weren’t allowed to compete in Olympic shooting events until 1968, when Peru, Poland, and Mexico all entered one female in the Games.
Now women are well-represented in this year’s USA Shooting Team, and women’s air rifle is the first event in which medals will be awarded, with Emily Caruso (Fairfield, Conn.) and Jamie Beyerle (Lebanon, Pa.) competing. I can’t imagine the pressure of shooting a near-perfect game with the world literally watching. Especially when I was first learning to shoot, I could get horribly nervous when it was just me, an instructor, and not another living soul in sight. -K.H.