2008 saw Salman Zaman making the journey to the Beijing Olympics to represent Bahrain and this year it’s the turn of Azza Ali Alqasim, the 27-year-old riflewoman who will also carry the Bahraini flag.
Dawood said: “The women fought for a place and we see in this sort of shooting that the women are better than the men, they have more endurance and more patience.
“For women pistol shooters at competition, their score will be out of 400 (each shot with a maximum score of ten and each competitor given 90 minutes to achieve the best score possible), for men it’s out of 600. You will find a lot more women registering 400 or close than you will men registering 600.”
So he’s pleased to see more women than ever taking up the sport.
Initially, on coming to the federation, everyone (male and female together) starts out pistol shooting. However, unlike the classic pistol-packing police or military officer’s two-handed shooting stance, competition pistol shooting requires extreme precision but with only one hand on the gun, which makes it, according to Dawood, the hardest of the shooting disciplines.
Would-be shooters will be assessed and may stay with pistols or may try rifle or shotgun.
The riflemen and women, like Azza, often appear the most glamorous with specially-made suits, costing up to BD4,000, which are individually tailored and designed to take into account a rifle shooter’s particular needs from special pads to protect skin and joints when they are standing, kneeling or lying, to straps to help hold the weapon in place offering relief from the weight.
Even the boots are specifically designed for when they are in the kneeling or prone position – unlike regular rounded toes, these have a type-of square extension of the sole at the front of the boot so the toes don’t come in contact with the ground.
For rifle shooters, the Bahrain federation, which has recently moved into new premises behind the horse racing track at Sakhir has excellent facilities including an indoor/outdoor shooting gallery area with the latest computerised equipment which, taking our weather into account, allows the shooter to stand, kneel or lie prone inside and take aim through a series of windows at the targets 25m or 50m away down the outdoor range. The computer by their side records their score without them ever having to set foot outside the door.
Not so for the shotgunners who are out at 5.30am aiming at clays in a bid to beat the heat. The team has only been in existence three years and Italian coach Elia Rachil was brought in to build it from scratch.
Now he’s hopeful there are some potential future Olympic contenders among his young squad.
He said: “We already have one girl, Samah Hijris who’s Arab ladies champion, she shocked the Arab shooting world and literally blew the competition away.
“There are also several boys who are looking really good.”
Speaking about the team selection process he added: “It takes a combination of eyes, agility and personality. We mix boys and girls so they are not thrown by the presence of the opposite sex when they get to international competition and they have to maintain qualifying scores for the team all round.
“In training we use lots of visualisation, imagining a perfect set of scores – all based on positive thinking – you have to believe you can do it to make it possible.
“We couldn’t have qualified for the Olympics this year, we are one of the youngest if not the youngest shotgun team in the world.
“We’ve only been going three years and I would say it takes around five to seven years to be ready for Olympic-level competition so we’ll be right on schedule for 2016.”
In the meantime the federation is preparing to host the GCC Women’s Championships next March with teams coming from across the Gulf.
Viewed your article very carefully and found that there is a great lack of systematic and regular training. As sports shooting specially the pistol shooting is not a matter of only regular training but it needs training in many directions like psychological, physical, mental and legal training along with special exercises to buildup some specific muscles according to the type of event one is going to participate. The sports shooting needs more psychological training as far as the physical. Only training is not enough but a perfect & systematic training.