ISSF President Vladimir Lisin. (ISSF)
(ATR) Vladimir Lisin was elected president of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) late last year. He replaced the longest-serving world sportsman in his position, the Mexican Olegario Vázquez Raña, who had been in charge since 1980.
One of the issues that has not gone away with a change in leadership is the negative effect that mass shootings, most often in the USA, have on shooting sport.
Around the Rings
caught up with Lisin to find out his thoughts on that and the state of the sport as Tokyo 2020 beckons.
Around the Rings
- The rifle and pistol world cup is taking place in Brazil right now. How many athletes will qualify for Tokyo from this event? Is there anything different about this world cup compared to previous editions?
- That's the last stage of the 2019 World Cup series where the Olympic Quota Places can be obtained. Two in each individual event. Sixteen all together. Eight among Men and eight among Women. The remaining Quota Places will be challenged at the continental Championships in 2019-2020.
Taking in consideration that part of the leading athletes has won Quota Places already, the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro is a real chance for many athletes to get the desired pass to Tokyo 2020 now. [There are] 541 athletes from 72 countries taking part in the World Cup! Isn't it another evident demonstration of the popularity of our sport and increased competition level in each event?
- Shooting has been part of the Olympics since 1896 and is one of the few sports that is found in both Winter and Summer Games. In addition to its role as part of Modern Pentathlon, it's a key part of biathlon. Recently there have been calls for the sport to be dropped from the Games in the aftermath of mass shootings in the US. If shooting were dropped, these sports also presumably would be dropped. That would wreak havoc on the Olympic program. How do you respond to this?
- Misleading public opinion, whether intentionally or by mistake, is quite common. It has earlier taken place, too.
Lima 2019 men`s 10m air rifle final (Lima 2019)
One of its methods is the use of a formal fallacy, the so-called straw man fallacy. It means diverting attention from the essence of the problem to something which is neither the source, nor the reason of what is going on.
The initiators of the calls you mention discuss mass tragedies and are usually quite logical in identifying their reasons.The reasons lie in the free and even unrestricted custody and use of multi-charged assault rifle and other military weapons. At the same, such opponents do not even try to show positive examples, in particular, of Olympic shooting, which embody the best practices of pacifist and safe use of weapons.Olympic shooting is a vivid example of the civilized handling of guns, mostly intended for young people.
The supposed motives of the opponents are clear.The calls for elimination or complete ban of something negative in society require continuous work, which is often hard and thankless. Such advocates are sure to understand that. They are also sure to understand that the modern society will not eliminate the true causes of what is going on for years to come, including the interest of a large percentage of people in weapons, and the use of violence for commercial purposes in various areas of society...
And it has absolutely nothing to do with either the Olympic Movement in general, or the shooting sports included in the Olympic program, in particular.
Perhaps it is just about the good old game – the witch-hunt.
- The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, decided against including shooting on the program for 2022, reportedly because of logistics. India, which has always done well in shooting, has threatened to boycott the entire event. Has there been any movement here? Any chance that shooting will be re-included? Or that India will stay home?
- We regret the decision of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee and the fact that no favorable response was given to our constructive offer which included, among other things, conducting competitions at the famous Bisley shooting center at no extra cost. Maybe, it is somehow related to the current situation in the UK. Maybe, it is related to the situation within the Commonwealth Games Federation. However, we continue to contribute efforts aimed at changing the current state of affairs and we will support the initiatives of our members using any means available to us.
As regards any boycotts, they are always a bad thing. Especially in sport.The athletes are the ones who suffer. I hope everyone understands that.
- Shooting has 15 medal events in the Summer Games. The IOC recently approved extending the qualification period for Tokyo. How is that working out? Is this a one-off, or will it become part of how you do things now?
- The IOC approved the ISSF request to prolong the qualification period until the end of May 2020.The aim of our initiative is to give an additional chance to obtain an Olympic license to any athletes who, for some reason, were not able to do it before.And, of course, to maintain maximum attention to the shooting sport in many countries until the Olympic Games.Otherwise, the Olympic qualification would have almost ended in 2019.
I believe that the main goal of the president of any international federation is to promote the development and popularization of the sport. The prolongation of the Olympic qualification period is one of the important steps in this direction. We will assess its efficiency in 2020, and decide together with our entire community on how to do it next time.
- You have 360 quota places for 2020. Six events will be for men; six will be for women. Plus three mixed team events also will debut in Tokyo. That means shooting will have full gender equality, which is one of the IOC goals.
That is also one of the lesser-known facts about shooting -- that your sport has something of a tradition of gender equality. Tell us how that will affect what we see next year and what your plans are for the years ahead.
Women's 25m pistol competition (Lima 2019)
- It is true that there are no gender equality issues in our sport now, although not so long ago men had much more quota places at the Olympic Games than women! This issue was resolved thanks to the new Mixed Team formats which are hugely popular. They do not only promote women's sports on the national level, but also show that women often outperform men.
It is a known fact that not only sports, but also events compete with each other for the spots in the Olympic program. Thanks to Mixed Team events, we managed to keep 15 events in the shooting program. However, some events which did not prove to be as popular as before or entertaining enough were excluded from it. No one in our community wants to become an outsider and repeat past mistakes.Therefore competition formats and organization shall be improved continuously.
This year we have started using a VAR system to eliminate the subjective factor at the final stages of shotgun shooting competitions. Almost all of our rating competitions were broadcasted professionally on TV. Some of them were shown on the Еurosport channel. Also, this year we shall adopt the new Statutes to replace the previous one, adopted in 1980. We continue our consistent work on introducing a dress code for national teams.
After Tokyo 2020 we shall discuss the innovations which are long due in the shooting community. In order to make the most out of these innovations, we study the opinions of continental confederations, national federations, organizing committees of competitions. We gather suggestions from the industry and sponsors. We discuss it with athletes, coaches, referees and other experts.We cooperate actively with the IOC Sports Department and with ASOIF.
- Is there such a thing as a typical shooting athlete? One thing that stands out about shooters is that unlike gymnasts or swimmers (among others) they can have such long competition lives.
- I don’t think that there is a definition of a “typical shooting athlete”. If you attend our competitions, you will see that the participating athletes have quite different body types. However, I can affirm that our sport has become younger. For example, at one of the recent World Cups, the average age of winners was less than 23 years, the average age of runner-ups – about 27 years, and the average age of participants – just over 30. And it is quite understandable.The programs are getting more difficult.The cyclical shooting marathon is becoming more and more athletic. However, just like in many other sports, there are athletes in the shooting sports whose behavior, lifestyle and professional approach make them a role model for the youth and help them maintain top competition form for many years.
- What about access (or accessibility) and universality? How does shooting stack up against other sports?
- At this stage we, as an International Federation, are not directly responsible for organizing competitions for Para athletes. However, we maintain constant contact with the World Shooting Para Sport leadership, because the competitions are held at the same venues, a number of national federations combine Olympic and Paralympic shooting, many of our experts and referees are often invited to work at World Shooting Para Sport events. We are open for cooperation and I hope that together with the President of the International Paralympic Committee Mr. Andrew Parsons we will find ways to expand it.
Robert Mitchell, ISSF Vice-President, Lisin, Kim Rhode, Chair ISSF Athletes Committee, Alexander Ratner, ISSF Secretary General, and Carlos Silva Monterroso, President, Shooting Confederation of the Americas, at Lima 2019 (ISSF)
As regards the universal nature of our sport, I don't think that there are many sports which can compare to us. Let me show you just the most obvious examples. Athletes from 121 countries have participated in the current Olympic qualification. 48 NOCs from all five continents have already secured a place at the Tokyo Olympics. Taking into consideration the fact that there are still continental qualifying competitions in Asia, Africa, Oceania and Europe to come, it is safe to say that both of these numbers will grow. And if we add the fact that 24 Olympic quota places will be distributed through the [Olympic Games] Tripartite Commission, which is more than the corresponding number in any other sport where universality quotas are distributed through the Tripartite Commission, the total number of countries participating in shooting competitions at the 2020 Olympics may be in the area of 100!
- Not too long ago you pledged a $10 million commitment of your own money for a development fund. What is happening there? Is it going to athletes? NGBs? Or somewhere else?
- I am used to fulfilling my promises. The program for this package has already been developed and approved by the ISSF Executive Committee. The upcoming ISSF Executive Committee meeting which is scheduled for October 4, 2019 will consider and, hopefully, approve the suggestions for the distribution of grants among the Member Federations for winning Tokyo Olympics quotas. Funds have also been reserved for the federations of countries with underdeveloped shooting sport. We are waiting for them to present specific development programs supported on the state or NOC level. We will also take care about the annual provision of incentives to the most successful athletes of the season according to the ISSF ranking.
- Is there anything you would like to say that we haven't asked?
- I am reminded of the words by Juan Antonio Samaranch, a great revolutionary of the Olympic Movement, who said that democracy means that anyone can voice their opinion at the discussion stage. However, once a group decision has been made, everyone shall comply with it. Even those who do not agree with it for some reason. This principle is the key to progress and success.The IOC experience proves the validity of this principle. We at ISSF shall comply with this principle. I hope this is how it is going to be.
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