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Susan Nattrass: Shooting for Canada

The Story

Susan Nattrass, the best female trap shooter in the world, is looking forward to making history by competing shoulder-to-shoulder with men at the upcoming Olympics in Montreal. But, in this CBC Television clip, the Edmonton native says more women would try the sport if they had a women-only category at the Games. Nattrass, under pressure to do well in Montreal, is practising two or more hours per day. "I have a good chance at a medal," she says.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Sports
Broadcast Date: Aug. 3, 1976
Guest: Susan Nattrass
Duration: 1:34

Did You know?

• At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Susan Nattrass became the first woman ever to compete in an Olympic trap shooting event. She finished 25th against her male competition.

• Nattrass was born Nov. 5, 1950, in Medicine Hat, Alta. Her father, Floyd, was a world-class sharpshooter who won the Canadian trap singles title in 1957 and 1961. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo he placed ninth. His daughter started shooting when she was 12 and strong enough to handle a shotgun. She has said she was "terrible" at first but started winning competitions when she was 18.

• Nattrass says that, at age 19, at a major contest in Nevada she was initially written off as a "young Canadian girl." Her anger at the condescension fuelled a remarkable performance in which she beat 1,200 men and women for the top prize. Nattrass later won six women's world championships between 1974 and 1981.  In 1981 she won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete, edging out hockey phenomenon Wayne Gretzky.

• In trap shooting, competitors use shotguns to fire at clay targets launched into the air from underground "traps." The shooter doesn't know in advance at what angle the clay "pigeon" will fly. Currently, in Olympic competition, women shoot at 75 pigeons; men shoot at 125. Whoever hits the most wins. At the 1978 world championship, Nattrass hit a world record 195 out of 200 targets.

• Nattrass has broken down many doors for women shooters. At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, she became the first woman to shoot against men. After women were barred from Olympic trap shooting in 1992, she started intense lobbying for a women-only event. It debuted at the 2000 Games. Nattrass was also the first woman to compete in the shotgun event at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981.

• Nattrass is a four-time Olympian. However, the winner of Pan American and Commonwealth games medals has never shot her best at the Olympics. Her best chance, she has said, would have been the 1980 Games when only four men in the world were ranked higher than her. The U.S.-led boycott of those Games, however, dissuaded Nattrass from competing.

• Throughout her long career Nattrass has lamented the shortage of government funding for her sport compared to that of some others. In the wake of the Ben Johnson doping scandal in 1988, Nattrass said big payouts to winners in certain glamour sports were encouraging a small minority of athletes to cheat.

• At the 2000 Games in Sydney, competing against other women, Nattrass seemed to be heading for gold after hitting 23 of the first 25 targets. In the next set, however, she hit only 18 of 25 and finished with a score of 63 out of 75. That left her ineligible for the six-woman final and, ultimately, in ninth place overall. Nattrass failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

• A devout Christian with a doctorate in philosophy, Nattrass has worked as an osteoporosis researcher and was previously athletic director at two universities. In a September 2000 interview with the Edmonton Journal, Nattrass said she has two big regrets. Neither involve the Olympics. The first was that she didn't go to medical school. The second was that she never had a child.


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