Oct. 18, 2005--When the last two clay targets fell to pieces in the sky, Barcelona Olympic champion Zhang Shan from Sichuan province not only won the battle for the women's skeet title, but also showed her young rivals what age means in shooting.
The 37-year-old Zhang grabbed the gold medal by hitting 24 targets in the 25-shot final, beating Beijing's Liu Ying into second place.
"I was not nervous then. I had won the title at the Seventh National Games in 1993 and I had won the Olympic title in Barcelona in 1992. I would lose nothing if I lost today's final," said Zhang.
As a dozen of China's big names, including dual Olympic champion Yang Ling and Athens Olympic gold medalist Jia Zhanbo, stumbled in the Fangshan shooting range in southeast Nanjing, Zhang saved the reputation for the old guns.
"We face great challenge from young shooters," said Zhang, "but we are not old, we can be back soon."
Zhang led the qualification round with 72 hits and produced a nearly perfect final performance to win the title with a total of 96 hits, equaling the world record set by French Veroniqu Girardet-Allard at the Lonato World Shooting Championship in 2005.
"I am in my prime now and I want to thank all the people who helped me, especially my husband. I won't win the title without his support," said Zhang.
Zhang snatched the Olympic gold medal in skeet in 1992 after defeating five male shooters but retired shortly afterward.
"The women's skeet was excluded from the Olympics in 1996 and I decided to retire to study in the university," recalled Zhang, who now runs a shooting club in Sichuan.
After the International Olympic Committee announced that the women's skeet was included in the 2000 Olympics, Zhang took up her guns again and won an Olympic berth for China in 1997, five years after her retirement.
"I didn't enter the final in the 2000 Olympics, but at least I knew I could continue my shooting career," said Zhang.
"Shooting, especially clay targets shooting, is a beautiful sport. I want to present the beauty of shooting to the spectators on the range.
"If I am in good shape in 2008, I will strive for second Olympic gold, but before that, I have plenty of things to do," she added.
Zhang Shan was by far one of the best women shooters in China.
Zhang was born in the city of Nanchong in Southwest China's Sichuan Province in March 1968. She began to practice skeet shooting at the age of 16 and entered the national team in 1989.
Just in that year, she swept the women's skeet individual and team title in the World Skeet Championships before she won the National Shooting Championships. The following year, she collected the skeet title in the World Shooting Championships.
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Zhang Shan represented China in the skeet-shooting event, which included both men and women. Zhang caused a sensation by finishing first and becoming the first woman to win a mixed sexes shooting event.
She may also be the last as the International Shooting Union barred women from shooting against men after the Barcelona Games. Women were not allowed to compete in skeet shooting at the 1996 Olympics, so Zhang was unable to defend her title.
Due to her great contributions to the country, she was voted into the Fifty Best Athletes in the New China in 1999.
(Source: chinaculture.org & chinaview.cn)
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