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23 Mar 2007
IOC News

Spotlight on Shan Zhang!

She has to her name two editions of the Games, one gold medal, one new Olympic record and a performance which will remain in the history books. Who is it? Chinese athlete Shan Zhang, gold medallist in Barcelona in 1992 who won the mixed sex skeet shooting event - a highlight in the history of the Games and of women, which, on the occasion of her birthday, deserves to be recounted.

A first and last in the history of shooting!
Who would have believed that Zhang, originally from the province of Sichuan, would be the first and last women to win a mixed sex shooting event in Barcelona in 1992?
However, for the Chinese athlete it was not her first victory: she already had to her name two World Championship gold medals when she won Olympic recognition. We are in August 1992, on the Olympic shooting field in Mollet del Vallès in Barcelona, for the final of the mixed sex 125 targets skeet event. The environment featured many innovations for the first live broadcast: a 1,000 seat stand, bullet impact control monitors, various cameras, etc. Besides the technical innovations, the shooting event in Barcelona saw a first: a woman won an event which was mixed sex. With a score of 223 points, Shan Zhang set a new Olympic record. She went on to win one more gold medal and three silvers at the World Championships in 1998, 1999 and 2001, and finished in eighth place at the Sydney Games.

Women’s shooting
Staged at the Olympic Games since 1896, shooting is split into four groups: shotgun, rifle, pistol and moving target. In the shotgun events, athletes compete by shooting at targets launched from different directions. In the rifle and pistol events, shooters aim at each of the targets from a distance of 10, 25 and 50 metres.
It was not until the Mexico City Games in 1968 that women competed in shooting, but only in the mixed events. Mexico, Peru and Poland each entered a female athlete. In Los Angeles in 1984, events strictly for women were introduced. Since then, the number of women’s events and female athletes has steadily increased. Only the skeet and trap events, hunting rifle events, remain mixed. It was in this context that Zhang succeeding in being the first and last woman to win a mixed-sex event. Indeed, after the Barcelona Games, the International Shooting Federation did away with mixed events. The first strictly women-only Olympic skeet record was thus set by Zemfira Meftakhetdinova at the Sydney Games.

Women’s Olympic Games
More and more women are participating in the Games and taking part in a growing number of sports and events. The Chinese illustrate this trend very well: since 1992, there have been more women than men participating in the Olympic Games. Women represented 52.24% of the Chinese athletes in Barcelona, 62.75% in Atlanta, 66.42% in Sydney and 64.58% in Athens. What’s more, 128 additional female athletes will take part in the next Games in Beijing in 2008.

Afraid of nothing
Neither practising a sport in which one handles firearms, nor coming from a small Chinese provincial town prevented Shan Zhang from facing up to the target, setting a new Olympic record, and having a strong impact on sporting and Olympic history.

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