China, America's Rhode, shoot for glory
Updated: Friday, 06 Jul 2012 11:11
China's shooters are the team to beat at the Olympics but Kim Rhode can finally win the attention she deserves by becoming the first American to win individual medals at five Summer Games in a row.
On home soil in 2008, China's crack shots took five of the 15 gold medals on offer, making them the top performers ahead of traditional powerhouses the United States and the Czech Republic.
And the Chinese are finding form at the right time, finishing top of the overall medal standings at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Series event in Munich in May.
"I am preparing for the Olympic Games, working on the technical aspects but also on my physical preparation," said China's Chen Ying, the reigning women's 25 metre pistol Olympic champion, after winning in Munich.
"I won't participate in any other competition before the Olympics."
Chinese world champion Yi Siling took gold in the women's 10m air rifle in Munich. And Du Li, chasing her third consecutive Olympic shooting gold, finished second in the women's 50m rifle three positions.
Du, who won the women's 10m air rifle title in 2004 and the 50m rifle three positions in 2008, took time off after the Beijing Games to get married and start a family.
America's Rhode, who will be 33 when the competition gets under way at London's Royal Artillery Barracks, is seeking her fifth straight medal and her third gold overall.
Rhode, whose medals have come in the women's double trap, no longer an Olympic event, and the skeet, said she has come to terms with her relatively low profile in a country more focused on swimming and athletics.
"I have come to recognise that the Olympics are about more than the medals or what you've done. It's about the bigger picture of the journey," Rhode told ESPN.com
"To say my journey wasn't recognised, it does make you sad to say that, but at the same time I know it wasn't intentional or out of spite. Maybe it just wasn't my time to shine."
Rhode's team-mate Matt Emmons, who won gold in the 50m rifle prone at Athens 2004, will be looking to atone for two heartbreaking failures in the 50m rifle three positions. In both 2004 and 2008, he blew his chance for gold on the last shot.
Elsewhere, Italy's Niccolo Campriani looks a hot favourite after three golds, a silver and a bronze in the ISSF World Cup Series, including gold in the 50m rifle three positions in April at the Olympic venue.
Korean ace Jin Jong-Oh, who won a gold and silver in Beijing, bagged a 10m air pistol and 50m pistol double in Germany.
And hundreds of millions of Indians will be backing bespectacled sure-shot Abhinav Bindra, whose win in the 10m air rifle in Beijing was the first ever individual Olympic gold for India.
Home fans are counting on Peter Wilson, who set a new world record in the men's double trap in Arizona in March, hitting 198 out of 200 targets.
"I've been training relentlessly for the last six years just to have this opportunity, and it really is a dream come true," said Wilson.
Olympic chiefs will want a clean competition after North Korea's Kim Jong-Su was stripped of two medals in 2008 when he failed a doping test.
And they are hoping they've seen the last of foxes who sneaked into the venue during April's World Cup event and chewed up fibre-optic cables and microphones, according to reports.
Nearly 400 competitors will shoot for gold in London, aiming at stationary targets in a range in the rifle and pistol events, and at moving targets in the shotgun events. There are nine men's events and six for women.