Since she was 12 years old, Canada's Annie Oakley of the past 40 years was taught to hit the target. Trapshooter Dr. Susan Nattrass managed just that most of the time. During her illustrious career, she won six world championships in a row, along with four silver and three bronze medals. Moreover, she has won two gold medals in World Cups, plus two silver and three bronze medals.
The Edmonton sharpshooter also participated in four Olympic Games -- 1976, 1988, 1992 and 2000 -- but her competitive heart was set on making the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
She missed out because Canadian Olympic Committee rules set strict standards. The COC based its ruling on the fact that a Canadian athlete has to be among the top 12 in the world to go to Athens. Nattrass was ranked No. 13.
Most athletes would have given up, but not Nattrass.
"In women's trap, they arranged for 12 pre-Olympic events to give 12 women a chance to make the Olympics," said Nattrass, who was the first woman to compete in trapshooting when she participated in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. "The goal was to win one of the events. I came close, but didn't win.
"In 2001, I tried to win the gold medal in the world championship, but missed. In 2002, I had eight chances to make it, but didn't. I was disappointed, but didn't give up."
The holder of the Order of Canada couldn't just quit. She wrote to the International Shooting Sport Federation and asked whether Canada had a quota spot but hadn't used it.
The COC, in fact, had three quota spots, but decided the three shooters didn't meet the COC standards and were about to return the quota spots to the ISSF. Enter the never-say-die Annie Oakley.
"I wrote to the COC's Selection Committee and documented to them that, based on previous performances, I was capable of representing Canada.
"The Selection Committee of the COC met, looked at the documentation and approved my inclusion in the Athens contingent. They also asked the ISSF to allocate a quota spot in my name. The ISSF agreed and that's how I'll be going to Athens. I don't have to tell you how thrilled I am."
The medical researcher in osteoporosis at Pac Med Clinic in Seattle has never been one to duck a difficult question. So, I didn't hesitate to ask Nattrass, whom I have known for many years, why she has experienced a sudden decline in her performance beginning four years ago.
"I had a long talk with a friend of mine who is a psychologist," Nattrass said. "She suggested that I was going in too many directions at the same time by trying to do shooting, work as a journalist, teach university, study for my Masters Degree, make appearances on behalf of amateur sports and, mainly, worry about finances."
Fortunately in Athens, Nattrass will only have to worry about one thing -- hitting a clay bird every time somebody springs the trap.
A record 300 Europeans played in the NHL during the 2003-2004 season, according to a report from the International Ice Hockey Federation. Of those, 76 came from the Czech Republic, 64 from Russia, 53 from Sweden, 37 from Finland and 35 from Slovakia. The remaining players came from Germany, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Austria, Switzerland, Belarus, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and France ... Ivan Hlinka, who coached the Czech national team to a gold medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano and the 1999 world championship in Norway, will return to the team as its coach for the 2004 World Cup ... The 6th Annual Woodbine Entertainment Golf Tournament will be held this Wednesday at Royal Woodbine.