Every era has its own hero. The passion shooters have for their sport has not changed since shooting sport was first introduced to the Olympic Games in 1896. Olympic history abounds with tales of athletes who overcame crippling adversity to win gold medals.
No discussion is needed when it comes to naming Olympic shooting’s first family. The remarkable records of Oscar and Alfred Swahn make them heros for the ages. Together father Oscar and son Alfred Swahn won 15 medals at four Olympic Games. In London 1908, the Swedes dominated the running deer event and Oscar and Alfred Swahn were both members of the team. The 60-year old Oscar opened the medal hunting for the Swahn family by winning a gold and bronze medal in the individual competition and added gold together with his son in the team match. In Stockholm 1912, the home race for the Swahn family, Alfred won his first individual gold medal and both repeated their gold medal victory with the team. Also for 1920 Antwerp the Swahns were chosen to represent their country at the Games and returned “high” decorated with medals back home. Oscar was part of the team and won silver at the age of 72 years: he was the oldest medallist in the history of the Games – a record that still stands and is unlikely to be challenged. Alfred went to Paris 1924 without his father. Although Oscar had been named to the team, he was ill at the Games time and could not attend. Alfred kept up the family tradition by winning two more bronze and one silver. This was the last time Swahn appeared at the Games.
Karoly Takacs was part of Hungary’s world-champion pistol-shooting team in 1939 when an army grenade exploded in his right hand. Nine years later, he won the first gold medal in rapid-fire pistol at the Olympic Games in London 1948 and won another Olympic Gold medal at the next Games in Helsinki in 1952 – after teaching himself to shoot left-handed.
In the seventies and eighties, Sweden’s Ragnar Skanaker hit his peak by winning one gold and two silver medals in the 50m Pistol event. This promising newcomer won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Munich 1972 and from then on one could not imagined the shooting sport without the presence of this Swedish athlete. In 1992 Skanaker won his last Olympic Bronze medal in Barcelona. After a break, the now seventy year old athlete has returned to his sport and is again a serious opponent amongst the international competing athletes.
The name that stands for today’s shooting sport hero is Ralf Schumann from Germany. Schumann who unites discipline, accuracy and passion in his sport has already made a name for himself by winning three Olympic Gold medals in the Rapid Fire Pistol event in Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004. Despite ongoing changes in the shooting sport, which influences training and performances, Ralf Schumann is the ambitious enthusiast of today’s and tomorrows shooting sport.