The United States will send its largest team ever in Shooting to the Paralympic Games with five athletes earning the distinct honor to represent Team USA, including the first women to compete for the United States in Paralympic Shooting competition.
There are currently 12 events for Paralympic Shooting, which include eight rifle and four pistol events. Paralympic Shooting offers three separate events for men and three for women. Men and women compete together in an additional six mixed events.
The USA’s Paralympic history in Shooting includes three medals overall. Roger Withrow earned the only gold medal thus far at the Stoke Mandeville/New York 1984 Paralympic Games for the 10m Prone Air Rifle event. West Brownlow also earned a bronze medal that same year in Air Pistol. Current Alaska Fairbanks head coach Dan Jordan is the last Paralympic medal winner for the U.S. having earned a silver medal in the Three-Position Rifle event at the 2004 Athens Games. Since 1975, 30 Team USA athletes have competed in Shooting at the Paralympic Games.
Most recently in London, Josh Olson (Spokane, Washington) finished 12th and 28th in his two rifle events while Eric Hollen (Colorado Springs, Colorado) finished 14th and 23rd in his two pistol events. China was the top team after earning four gold medals during the competition.
Shooting first appeared as a demonstration event at the 1972 Paralympic Games. Shooting became an official Paralympic event at the 1976 Paralympic Games. The sport’s debut came with 14 participating countries and only three medal events. Today, more than 65 countries participate in Paralympic Shooting.
Classification provides a structure for competition. Athletes competing in Para sports have an impairment that can lead to a competitive disadvantage, thus a system has to be put in place to minimize the impact of impairments on sport performance and ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus.
To best ensure an environment of fair and equal competition, Para athletes are placed in categories for competition based on their impairment, called “sport classes.” Within sport classes, athletes are grouped by the degree of activity limitation resulting from the impairment. As sports require different activities, the impact of the impairment on each sport also differs. Therefore, for classification to minimize the impact of impairment on sport performance, classification must be sport-specific. Shooting athletes can be tested and receive their classification at most IPC Shooting events.
There are two classifications for Paralympic shooters: SH1 pistol/rifle and SH2, which are broken down as follows:
Within these classifications, things such as the stiffness of the spring used in a shooting stand, to the height of the back of a wheelchair used in competition are regulated and determined by level of impairment.
The sport is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and coordinated by the IPC Shooting Sport Technical Committee and Management team.
The sport follows rules of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) in conjunction with its own IPC Shooting Technical Rules and Regulations, which take into account considerations for Para athletes in shooting sport.
The course of fire for Paralympic events is similar to the men’s events in Olympic shooting, with the Sport Pistol event conducted on the same course of fire as the women’s Olympic event. Finals are conducted just as they are in the Olympic events.
One of the events unique to Paralympic competition is Air Rifle Prone. Though athletes will not lay on the ground in the traditional prone position, they are able to rest their elbows on a shooting table while shooting.
Paralympic Three-Position Rifle events are contested with one elbow supported for the kneeling position, and two elbows supported for the prone position.