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Short-sighted madness - SSAA slams decision to drop key Olympic events

One of the most eye-catching and entertaining shooting events has been dropped from the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, all in the name of gender equality. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the end to the men’s Double Trap event earlier this month, removing it from the Olympic Games from 2020 onwards. The event will also no longer feature at the World Cup from next year.

The SSAA voiced our opposition to the move directly to the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), who proposed the changes and welcomed the IOC’s decision to change the suite of shooting events. SSAA National President Geoff Jones implored the ISSF to recant the proposal in a letter sent to the body earlier this year, expressly opposing the cancellation of three men’s shooting events: 50m Rifle Prone, 50m Pistol and Double Trap.

Geoff labelled proposals to replace the key men’s categories with three mixed-team events as “deeply concerning”. “While we applaud the efforts to increase female participation in the shooting sports, we do not believe it should be at the expense of male competitors, who have traditionally been very successful at the international level in these events,” Geoff wrote.

Geoff also raised valid concerns about how the cancellation of these events could “adversely affect the majority of shooting sports that use centrefire and rimfire cartridges”, adding that “these changes may have detrimental effects on junior participation numbers.” However, it appears our letter has fallen on deaf ears, along with a number of international online petitions and opposition from other peak shooting groups, including USA Shooting.

The decision means that the Tokyo Olympic Games will include the new Trap Mixed Gender Team, 10m Air Rifle Mixed Gender Team and 10m Air Pistol Mixed Gender Team events. In another blow to the sport, the number of shooting competitors who will be allowed to compete at Tokyo 2020 has been lowered to 360, compared with 390 at Rio 2016.

Upon hearing the news, Geoff said the concept was “short-sighted madness” and “jeopardises the sport of shooting”. “It is disappointing and the logic behind it is short-sighted madness, as replacing three premier men’s shooting events with team events, when shooting itself is very much an individual sport, will not really address the gender equality issue,” he said.

Geoff also hit out at the apparent “emasculation” of the sport, saying: “The whole concept of forced gender equality is a flawed logic. Of course we are all for creating opportunities, but to actually emasculate the sport of shooting by eliminating several long-standing, challenging events, which are worthy of being Olympic events, equates to dumbing down the sport. It is a reactionary and populist decision.”

SSAA member James Willett, who was ranked number one in the world in the Double Trap and represented Australia at the event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, expressed his regret directly to the Australian Olympic Committee. “It’s a little disappointing,” he said. “I would have liked to continue shooting the Double Trap but with the way it’s panned out I’ve gotten to world number one and started winning major international events and now it’s been cut.”

Former Olympic champion, SSAA member and Australian Shooter columnist Russell Mark also expressed his displeasure about the decision, labelling it a “shame”, both personally and for the country, with Australia boasting a history of success in the event. “Basically they have taken away the most TV-friendly event shooting had at the Olympics and that is a huge drawcard to lose for the non-shooting public who would tune in and watch the Olympics,” he said.

Russell, who provides expert commentary on the Olympic shooting events for Channel 7, is worried the new events “will be boring in comparison”. “I am not convinced that it’s a good idea at all, especially at a time when we want viewers to be interested and excited about shooting events and Australian shooters,” he said.

Both Russell and his partner Lauryn Mark, also a champion shooter, pointed to problems with the shooting events beginning after the women’s Double Trap event was cancelled in 2004. Lauryn placed fourth in its final year as an Olympic event, and she is also worried about the effect the decision will have on the sport. “In terms of the mixed gender teams, I am most disappointed that they will only be putting that in place for the Trap discipline and not Skeet, therefore creating inequality for athletes based on discipline instead,” Lauryn said. “The one good change that has come from this is that women and men will now shoot the same number of qualifying rounds,” she added.

While the SSAA remains disappointed about the decision, we will continue to be a willing stepping stone for shooters of all abilities, genders and ages. The SSAA proudly hosts a variety of shooting disciplines at our 400-plus clubs across Australia, offering the chance for shooters to compete at a club, state, local, national or even international level. This will never change.

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