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Updated:2008-06-03 17:31 |

Athens, 18 August, Games of the XXVIII Olympiad. Women's shooting: Bulgarian Maria GROZDEVA poses for photographers after winning the 25 meters pistol final at the Markopoulo shooting center. Credit: IOPP/AFP PHOTO/Eric FEFERBERG

Olympic history abounds with tales of athletes who overcame crippling adversity to win gold medals, but Karoly Takacs' comeback may be the best. Takacs was part of Hungary's world-champion pistol-shooting team in 1938 when an army grenade exploded in his right hand. Ten years later, he won the first two golds in rapid-fire pistol - after teaching himself to shoot left-handed.

In a sport where the bullseye looks about the size of the full stop at the end of this sentence, a sport where shooters compete amid a cacophony of noise and still concentrate on firing between heartbeats, Takacs' achievement tests the imagination.

From just three shooting events at the 1896 Olympic Games to 17 today, the sport has grown steadily. In part this leap can be ascribed to advances in the technology of firearms and equipment, which have led to constant changes in the shooting competition. But it can also be ascribed to the passion shooters have for their sport.

Discipline's origin

Shooting originated as a means of survival, as it was practised in order to hunt game for food. In the 19th century, however, as the industrial revolution made hunting for food less necessary for many people, shooting evolved into a sport. The sport was first popular in English-speaking countries, notably England and the United States, as well as Ireland and South Africa. The National Rifle Association (USA) was formed in 1871 and provided the impetus for the development of shooting as an organised form of sport in the United States.

Olympic history

Shooting has been contested at most of the Olympic Games. The sport first appeared in 1896. There were also events in 1900, but none were contested during the 1904 and 1928 Games.

The programme has varied just as much as any of the other sports (with the possible exception of sailing/yachting). In 1908, 1912, 1920 and 1924 there were dozens of events, including multiple team events. Thus it was possible for shooters to win many medals at these Olympics. After a hiatus in 1928, the sport returned to the Olympics in 1932 with only two events - one for pistols and one for rifles. Since World War II the programme has become relatively standardised.

Women were first allowed to compete in Olympic shooting in 1968. In that year Mexico, Peru and Poland each entered one female contestant. In 1984 the International Shooting Union (UIT) now called the ISSF - International Shooting Sport Federation introduced separate events for women. Between 1984 and 1992 the number of women's events increased gradually. In addition, several of the events on the programme remained mixed, i.e. open to both men and women. As of 1996 in Atlanta, the shooting programme was segregated, with men's events being separated from the women's.

Opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics