by David Goodfellow, ESSU Chairman and Member of the ISSF Rifle Committee.
Following the principle set out in the IOC’s 2020 document concerning gender-equality, the ISSF Executive and the Administrative Council decided to equalize everything across all Olympic disciplines. The effect for our sport is that men and women will fire the same number of shots, with the same time timings and equipment rules. There was a debate concerning whether the men should fire 40 shots in airgun events, or a 3x20 in 3P, or if the women should fire 60 shots, or a 3x40. Concerns such as, “are junior women strong enough or have the stamina to fire those additional shots” were raised. The Athletes Committee recommended that, considering the loss of our traditional men-only events, they had no desire to introduce further reductions or changes to the existing men’s competitions. Additionally, in many domestic competitions and training, women already fire the full course so strength and endurance were not an issue and some women could find that insulting. A suggestion that all events should be mixed-gender could result in the loss of six Olympic shooting medal opportunities, and no-one wants that! Equalizing the events does, however, cause a problem for athletes and Organisers in that each women’s Qualification relay takes an additional 25 minutes, so the daily schedules are consequently longer. This means that in the bigger competitions athletes will be called to the line as early as 7:30am and the last Final, plus prize-giving, will possibly not end until after 7:30pm.
As everyone must be aware, the 2017 (1st printing) of the Rulebook brought in the changes to the Olympic program in respect of the loss of 50m prone rifle, 50m pistol and double-trap. These were replaced by mixed-gender team (pairs) events: 10m air Rifle and Pistol and Trap for shotgun. For Rifle and Pistol, the format was originally based on the ‘Air 50’ events that had been used by the European Shooting Confederation for several years, and indeed that format was used at the Junior World Championships which took place in Suhl, Germany, in June. However, most of the competitors were not familiar with the format, the Qualification stage of which consisted of 25 shots fired by each of the Pair, hence the ‘Air 50’ and the top eight teams qualified for the Finals. Most Finals ranges are constructed with ten electronic targets so it was impossible for all sixteen athletes to fire at the same time. Consequently, there had to be two series of semi-finals to establish the top four teams, who then competed in a bronze medal-match followed by the gold medal-match. All very well in theory, but with utter confusion during the change-over times, with firearms having to be taken in and out of the range and placed on tables on either side and the fact that each Final took about ninety minutes, it was a mess! The whole debacle was witnessed by Gary Anderson (Vice-President of the ISSF), and Franz Schreiber (Secretary-General), who were less than impressed, especially as it was transmitted live on ISSF TV. My report, as Chairman of the Rifle Jury, made it clear that this was not a good format for a new Olympic event. Even the ISSF President, Olegario Vazquez-Rana, did not like it and a subsequent meeting of the ISSF Technical Committee decided to substitute the format with one that reflected the proposals put forward by the Rifle and Pistol Committees in 2016. The current format is that each member of the pair will fire a 40-shot Qualifier in 50 minutes, which is the same as the former Woman’s match. The top five pairs will then shoot a shoulder-to-shoulder Final, using all ten targets on the Finals range. There are a few additional Rules about firing alternately in prescribed time-limits, but it will basically be similar to the elimination-style format used in all other Finals. The Finals take about 35 minutes, so much more compact and, hopefully, more exciting!
The ISSF Rulebook (2017 version – 2nd printing), which came into effect on 1st January 2018, included all the above changes, and there has since been some further 'clarifications' and corrections to some obvious errors. Those few minor changes to the Rules should not cause any great concerns and in fact are sensible.
See below for the relevant Rule changes in the 2nd printing of the Rulebook:
General Safety Rules
126.96.36.199.a): Safety flags must be inserted in all guns that are not in gun cases or boxes before athletes are called to the line, when leaving a firing point, after firing is completed and when personnel must go forward of the firing line. In Finals, safety flags may not be removed until Preparation and Sighting Times start. Not a Rule change – Just correction of a previous error.
Special Competition Regulations
6.11.8 a): During the Preparation and Sighting Times for all competitions, announcements and/or visual displays may be used to inform spectators about the event. During Preparation and Sighting and Match Firing Times for Elimination and Qualification competitions, music may be played. Music must be played during Finals (188.8.131.52).
Must be played changed from may be played
The relevant changes to equipment rules affecting Rifle and Pistol are:
Standards for 300m Standard Rifle and 10m Air Rifle
184.108.40.206: The butt-plate may be adjustable up or down. The butt-plate may be offset to the right or left of the butt-stock centre and/or the butt-plate may be turned on its vertical axis.
This added the word and, so a butt-plate can be offset and turned on its vertical axis. The wording prohibiting turning on its horizontal axis has been removed. The main concern about the butt-plate is that if a multi-part butt-plate is used, all parts must be offset or turned in the same direction from the butt-stock centre. (Otherwise the butt-plate end could be 60mm wide).
220.127.116.11 d): A weight may be attached to any part of the rifle, but the weight must be within the fundamental shape of the stock. Weights in the butt-stock area cannot extend further to the rear than a line that is perpendicular to the deepest point of the butt-plate.
Additional sentence. This is now the same as for a free-rifle. The "funamental shape of the stock" is not defined, which has led to some innovative designs of additional weights, some exrending vertically from the end of the cheek-piece. Provided that they are no higher than the top of the rear-sight there should be no problem.
Standards for 50m Rifles
7.4.5 a): The weight of the rifle may not exceed 8.0 kg for men and women with all accessories used including palm rest or hand stop;
No changes to Clothing Regulations
Other changes merely change the courses of fire for women to make them the same as for men.