Politicking at Olympic level

The politics of shooting is not just limited to debate among governments, politicians, police or the SSAA Legislative Action department. As the Rio Olympic Games ramp up, elite shooters have been queried by journalists about more than just their medal-winning shoot or pathway to success.

Australia’s Olympic shooting gold medallist Catherine Skinner was forced to justify shooting as a real sport following her landmark win in the women’s Trap event on August 8. The 26-year-old SSAA member told the ABC that she hoped media coverage of her win would help debunk myths about the sport and separate the idea that guns are predominately used in crime or “killing”.

Catherine, who outshot New Zealand’s Natalie Rooney in a tense 12-11 shoot-out to claim gold for Australia, described how she has been on the receiving end of “plenty of awkward questions where people assume I was out killing things, which isn’t the truth… We do use (firearms) for a genuine sport. It is a skilled sport. You don’t understand how difficult it is and how mental this sport is.”

Catherine is not alone. United States Olympic Skeet shooter Kim Rhode has become so accustomed to questions from journalists asking about gun control laws that she has endeavoured to become a self-educated expert. She often queries journalists as to why they don’t quiz other Olympian about such matters, such as swimmers who are not asked their views after a reported drowning accident.

In an interview with The Guardian in the lead-up to the ongoing Rio Olympic Games, the triple gold medallist said new laws passed in her home state of California have made it more difficult for her to practise. “We just had six laws that were passed in California that will directly affect me,” she said. “For example, one of them being an ammunition law. I shoot 500 to 1000 rounds a day, having to do a background check every time I purchase ammo or when I bring ammo out for a competition or a match – those are very, very challenging for me.”

As part of our commitment to promote the sport of shooting at all levels, the SSAA has committed to rolling coverage of the Rio Olympic Games shooting events with detailed daily updates, including about Catherine’s fantastic gold medal win. Australia’s Aislin Jones will come up against Rhode in the Skeet events from August 12.

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