Team China

Zhang shooting for 60

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-27 16:19
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Zhang shooting for 60

Veteran Chinese skeet star has sights set on firing away for years to come

GUANGZHOU - At the age of 42, most top athletes are thinking of heading off to greener pastures; if they haven't already done so.

Not Chinese veteran shooter Zhang Shan, who aims to keep blasting away until she is 60.

Zhang shooting for 60

Being the only Chinese athlete still in action from the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, Zhang said she felt lucky to be standing at the shooting range 20 years later, but her ambitions don't stop in Guangzhou.

"I don't think 60 is too old, and I'm waiting for China to host another Olympic Games," said Zhang, who claimed the Asian Games gold medal with the women's skeet team, which included Wei Ning and Wei Meng, and took fourth place in the individual section on Tuesday.

Two decades after her Asian Games debut, Zhang no longer needs to inspire herself by reading martial arts novels before major events.

"I used to encourage myself by reading novels when I didn't have any achievements," said Zhang, who won the first women's skeet gold medal handed out at the Asian Games in 1990.

"After so many matches, I just immerse myself in my own world during the matches, even if I miss the target, I enjoy the whole process," she said.

Zhang was the only woman to win an Olympic medal in the mixed-sex skeet event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. However, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) stopped women from competing alongside men after 1992, which almost put an end to her career.

Fortunately, the International Olympic Committee and ISSF decided to introduce women's skeet shooting at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and that saw a determined Zhang back on the range after four years of studying economics at Sichuan University.

"I really love shooting," said Zhang, "I've said I will never quit shooting until the end of my life, and I will do my best in every match, though I'm not sure which will be my next."

In fact, shooting has given her more than applause and honors.

Zhang married Australian shooting referee Dexter Barnes in Chengdu in 2004. The couple first met at a tournament in 1993, when Barnes was also a shooter.

"My husband stands by my side and encourages me all the time," Zhang said. "In his eyes I am always the best."

Though working as an Asian Games referee serving on the same range with Zhang, Barnes can't judge Zhang's matches.

"He becomes the most nervous man when I am involved in a competition and he always hopes I can make a good score," Zhang said. "He told me that looking at me standing on the shooting range and aiming my gun gives him his happiest moments."

To support Zhang's career, Barnes came to China at the end of last year, which allows the couple to spend more time together.

"I didn't have long-term training with the national team for many years and only trained some days before matches because my husband was in Australia," said Zhang, who used to fly between the two countries to balance her family and shooting career. "But now we don't have to fly around."

Besides being a professional shooter, Zhang also had a short coaching stint in India last year, which gave her a deeper understanding of the event.

"The Indians have a great struggle," said Zhang, who was greatly moved by the Indian skeet shooters' perseverance. "They have no physical coach or team manager like us, and have to practice all by themselves."

Indian Arti Singh Rao, who was coached by Zhang, also took part in Tuesday's match, but failed to qualify for the final after losing to her former mentor.

"Everyone standing on the range is talented, and all of the athletes cherish each of their matches," Zhang said. "What made me happy today was the whole process, no matter if I won a gold or not."

Zhang shooting for 60

China Daily


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