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By Patrick Johnston
4 Min Read
LONDON (Reuters) – An eight-month pregnant shooter and first female Olympian from Qatar are set to steal the show from their more illustrious opponents as all eyes turn to the 10 metre air rifle on Saturday to see who will win the first gold medal of the London Games.
Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic competes during the women’s 10m air rifle final of the 2012 European Shooting Championships in Heinola February 18, 2012. REUTERS/Pekka Sakki/Lehtikuva
Beijing gold medallist Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic is expected to challenge for the honour again with China’s world number one Yi Siling also expected to go close, but either’s appearance on a podium is unlikely to be the lasting image of the event.
The world’s glare will instead be on the bulging belly of Malaysia’s Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who will compete in the event at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich east of Olympic Park on Saturday despite being eight months pregnant.
Suryani will take part in the qualifiers which start at 0815 local time with the finals following a matter of hours later knowing her first daughter, due on Sept 2, could arrive at any moment.
“It will happen any time,” Suryani told reporters after her training session on Friday.
“Just pray to God that everything is going to be OK and all right. If I am going to be in labour before my competition, I accept it with open heart,
“When baby kicks, I will breathe in and breathe out and try to calm myself down and talk to baby ‘Behave yourself and help mummy to shoot’. Luckily she always understands.”
Before leaving Malaysia with her husband earlier this week, the 29-year-old, who had also qualified for the three position event but is skipping it because she can’t do the prone position, said she was feeling exhausted by the mass media attention surrounding her story.
But having touched down in London the tall jovial shooter from Perak, situated 200 kilometres north of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, was back to her cheery self.
“When you think negative things, it will give you more stress, then it will make your anxiety greater and then you cannot handle the stress and the situation. It makes you less confident of yourself and less focused on yourself.
“At first, maybe I was a little bit stressed, but my husband always gives me support. I act like ‘This is usual and normal’.”
Suryani is likely to share the attention of the photographers on the range with Qatar’s Bahia Al Hamad, who will become the first Qatari woman to take part in an Olympics.
The 19-year-old received a wild card to compete in London and will be the first of the three women Qatar have sent to the Games to compete.
She has also been given the privilege of carrying the Qatari flag in Friday’s opening ceremony meaning sleep will be at a premium with her early start on Saturday at the Barracks.
“It won’t affect me,” Al Hamad said of the short turnaround. “I am sure I will have some time to rest. I’ll go and sleep after the Opening Ceremony.”
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei were the only nations to have never sent a woman to compete at a Games but all three have committed to do so in London.
Qatar Archery and Shooting Association board member Al-Anoud Al Naimi said that Al Hamad’s participation in the Games would be a defining moment for the tiny Gulf nation.
“Sending a women’s team at the Olympic Games is historic for Qatar. More women will definitely take up sports after this in Qatar. I am sure we have women competing in other sports too. For now we have 62 women competing in different disciplines of shooting and archery back home and these numbers will rise.”
Bhutan’s Kunzang Choden will also be blazing a new trail as the country’s first competitor in a event other than its national sport of archery.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston
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