By Laura Pappano
When Jonathan Hall captured the air-rifle individual title at the NCAA Rifle Championships, held at Texas Christian University last weekend, he realized what a big deal it was. “I had to represent the men,” said Hall, according to an NCAA news report. (Hall was the only guy to make the finals.)
The all-female TCU team won the overall NCAA national title and the team air-rifle title; Sarah Scherer of TCU won the small bore individual title.
While this was a big day for men – and for Columbia (Ga.) State, which just started a rifle team this year – it also serves as a reminder that men can compete in sports with top female athletes and sometimes win.
Or, put another way, in some sports men and women can compete with and against each other. No problem.
NCAA College Rifle is a co-ed sport. What makes this so interesting is that in Olympic competition, rifle is divided by sex. And not just divided, but assigned different rules.
In rifle, for example, there are some events women don’t compete in at all (sound familiar?) and others – like the 50m, 3 position (prone, standing kneeling) where the men take 40 shots and women just 20. In the 10m air rifle, guys take 60 shots standing; women 40 (same deal for the air pistol). Trap, double trap and skeet shooting call for 125 targets for men and 75, 120, and 75 (respectively) for women. But why?
Having different divisions and rules in an Olympic sport in which males and females already effectively compete together at the college level makes no sense. For those who argue that making Olympic shooting competition co-ed would cut down on chances for medals, I’d say: Make more categories.
In 1976 when Margaret Murdock “tied” for a gold medal with Lanny Basham and was awarded a silver by the judges, it was a co-ed competition – and then divided after that. “Men didn’t like having a woman beat them,” Murdock told me a few years ago in an interview.
Now, of course, they are used to it. Maybe the IOC can be out front here: There’s still time before London…