Competition at the Highest Levels



Target shooting is popular worldwide and made its first Paralympics appearance at the 1976 Games. Paralympic shooters use exactly the same rifles, pistols, targets, ranges, and much of the same equipment as able-bodied athletes.

In fact, this is a sport where athletes with disabilities can and do compete with the able-bodied. The most famous was Hungarian Karoly Takacs, who switched from right-handed to left-handed shooting after an army accident, and became only the second athlete with a disability to compete in the Olympics. Takacs did more than compete: he was the first shooter to win gold in two consecutive Games, 1948 and 1952, in the 25-meter rapid-fire pistol event. More recently, American shooter Josh Olson represented the U.S. at the (able-bodied) 2010 Championship of the Americas.

The key difference is not whether the shooter stands or uses a wheelchair. Instead, rifle shooters are categorized by whether they can hold the weight of their gun without additional support (Pistol shooters are never allowed a gun support.)

Competitors shoot from 10, 25, and 50-meter distances, aiming, as in all shooting events, for the bullseye and the highest point tally on a 10-ring target.

Top Contenders:
• Sweden, South Korea, and Russia dominated the gold in 2008.
• The U.S. last medaled in 2004 when Dan Jordan placed second in a rifle event.
• This year, former U.S. Army Ranger Eric Hollen is a front runner for the U.S. team, as is Sgt. First Class Josh Olson, who lost a leg in Iraq in 2003. Both have qualified for Team USA.

Paralympics 2012 Competition: Aug. 30 – Sept. 6

Athlete Classifications

The key classification for shooting is not whether an athlete can stand or uses a wheelchair. Instead, shooters are categorized by whether they can hold and aim without a gun stand (class SH1, rifles and pistols), or need a gun support to shoot (class SH2 – available only in rifle competition, not for pistols.)

Within the SH1 and SH2 classes, medical classifiers determine the support equipment allowed, particularly the height of the wheelchair backrest, based on the level of disability in torso control and stability. This is intended to equalize the competition for all.

Events are labeled as “standing,” “kneeling,” and “prone,” but the terminology, borrowed from the able-bodied sport, can be confusing. A “standing” event in Paralympic shooting is for athletes, on their legs or in a seat, who support the rifle with only their elbow, on the hip or side. A “kneeling” event indicates a sitting or kneeling athlete with one elbow supported on a knee or tabletop. And a “prone” event is for athletes lying on the ground or sitting in a chair with both elbows supported.

All of the pistol events are fired with one hand only.

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