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Shooting: What to watch in Athens
By Andy Kruse, NBCOlympics.com

1. Is Bret Erickson peaking at 43?

U.S. Army Photo
Bret Erickson. Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit.
He refers to himself as the old man of the USA Shooting team, but those around Bret Erickson, a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, say he was shooting better than ever. Until he suffered a blockage to his heart in June and had a pacemaker installed, that is. But despite the seemingly debilitating status, Erickson says he'll be ready for Athens. The five-time national champion returned to the range July 20. In Athens, he will shoot trap and double trap.


2. Will Kim Rhode send double trap out with a bang?

Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Kim Rhode was just 17 at the Atlanta Games.
The women's double trap event, which has only been contested in the Olympics since 1996, is scheduled to be removed from the program after Athens. So who better to win it than the one who captured gold as a 17-year-old in 1996 and bronze four years later in Sydney? Kim Rhode will be 25 in Athens and had little trouble qualifying for her third Olympics, with the closest competitor at the trials 35 points down. She says she shoots a little skeet but won't worry about her event for 2008 until after the current Games.


3. Now that Rhode's so experienced, who's the new kid?

Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Collyn Loper shoots during the women's trap final at the 2003 Pan Am Games.
That would be 17-year-old Collyn Loper, who won't begin her senior year of high school until after the Athens Games. The trap shooter was a member of the 2002 and 2003 world championship teams and won gold at the 2003 Pan Am Games. She was born blind in her right eye, which as a natural right-hander, would be her sighting eye. No problem -- she shoots lefty. Of the eight shooters representing the United States in Athens, she is the youngest by nearly five years.


4. Will Diamond prove he was worth the fuss?

Hamish Blair/Getty Images
Michael Diamond wins gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
After winning back-to-back golds in trap at the Olympics in 1996 and 2000, Australian Michael Diamond spent most of the 2003-04 winter dealing court proceedings and the technicalities of qualifying after a September assault charge. Because of a suspended firearms license, he was unable to compete at the national qualifying tournament and later sought special entry via a shoot-off with countryman Nathan Cassells. Over a two-month span, Diamond won two of the three tournaments that comprised the shoot-off, finally finishing off Cassells at the Athens Olympic venue in April.


5. Will a dominant nation emerge?

Darren England/Getty Images
Yang Ling, of China, wins the men's running target in Sydney.
In 2000, the medals were well distributed around the globe -- from Australia to Yugoslavia, and Azerbaijan to Ukraine -- as the 51 total were divided among 26 countries. No nation won more golds than China's three or overall medals than its eight. Shooting is the sport in which Kuwait won its only medal of the Sydney Games. Chinese coach Xu Haifeng says the country's goal in Athens is two golds, which speaks to the parity in the sport.


6. Who will be the Games' oldest medalist?
There's a good chance it will come from this sport, where two athletes over 50 will shoot on the women's side. American Elizabeth Callahan is a 52-year-old retired police lieutenant from Washington, D.C. Australia counters that with 56-year-old Annette Woodward, a grandmother of two who was in attendance at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Both will compete in the air pistol and sport pistol.


7. Who will be the Games' first medalist?

Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Roberto Di Donna, of Italy, sinks his teeth into gold.
This one is guaranteed to be a shooter. Competitors in the women's 10m air rifle event will not only be out for gold; they'll be out for the very first gold awarded in the 2004 Olympics. On the morning of Aug. 14, Day 1 of the competition, the event's final round will conclude around 11:40 local time at the Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre. That's more than eight hours before the next ceremony, assuring that some lucky lady will be the first of thousands to pose for a photograph while playfully biting a chunk of rare metal.
 

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And who will party the most? The Puerto Rican athletes, is who! :lol:

On my dime, too! :oops:
 

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I got a question, Luis? I Noticed that you hail from Puerto Rico USA. So, The Puerto Ricans have their own Olympic teams? I don't care about Basketball, and this is no angry, hate-filled, racist crap, but is it Puerto Rico the country, or Puerto Rico the Territory of the US? Why wouldn't Puerto Rican athletes play for the US? Montana doesn't have an Olympic team, niether does Florida. So, What's the deal? Just a question, please don't take it the wrong way.
 
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