Nattrass rewarded for legendary status

ALISON KORN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

The Canadian flag-bearer for the 2007 Pan American Games didn't last long before choking up during the announcement that she had been chosen for the honour.

Susan Nattrass, the reigning world champion in shooting and a legend in her sport, has missed just one opening ceremony in her career spanning five Olympics and three Pan Am Games.

"It is an absolute thrill and I'm honoured to be chosen as flag-bearer," Nattrass said. "It's very emotional for me, as you can tell. This is something I have never expected but have always dreamed about.

"Whether competing at the Olympic Games, the Pan American Games, the Commonwealth Games or at the World Championships, the opening ceremonies have always meant a great deal to me."

The 2007 Pan Am Games will take place July 13-29 in Rio de Janeiro. The Canadian Olympic Committee will finalize next week the complete list of approximately 500 Canadian athletes selected to the Games, which will serve as a qualifier for the 2008 Beijing Olympics for many of the sports.

Nattrass, from Edmonton, isn't widely known outside the amateur world, but she is a giant in her sport.

In 1976, Nattrass made Olympic history as the first woman to compete in the open trap-shooting event in Montreal. After spearheading a campaign to have separate men's and women's trap and skeet events at the Olympic Games, Nattrass' efforts came to fruition in 2000 when women competed for their own medals at the Olympic Games in Sydney.

After participating in the open event at both the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, Nattrass experienced success at the 2004 and 2000 Olympic Games, finishing sixth and ninth respectively in the women's trap competition. She also is a seven-time world champion and 35-time Canadian champion.

An expert in women,s health and osteoporosis, Nattrass lives in the U.S., working as Research Director for Pacific Medical Centers and as the Director of the Puget Sound Osteoporosis Centre in Seattle. Since there is no shooting range there, she commutes to Vancouver for training.

"I think that's the hardest part, trying to get the training time," Nattrass said.

"Accepting that I can't win every time. I know I can win, just not every time. The stars have to be in the right alignment. So it's more the frustration that would make me retire."

Nattrass is not retiring any time soon. At 56, Nattrass is at the top of her game, and is determined to continue at least until 2009, which would bring her years of international competition to 40.

A member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, Nattrass has represented Canada in shooting on the international stage since 1969. The 2007 Pan American Games will mark Nattrass' fourth consecutive appearance at the multi-sport event after shooting was added to the sports program in 1995.

Nattrass doesn't worry about any kind of flag-bearer jinx. Her competition starts on July 17, four days after the opening ceremony, so she's not worried about draining her energy by carrying the flag.

And there is an advantage to leading the team in to the stadium as flag-bearer.

"This time I don't have to sharpen my elbows because sometimes your teammates are pushing you out of the way to get in front of the cameras," Nattrass said with a laugh.

"When you march in, it's just so amazing. Having these people cheering and seeing all the athletes, I just think it's an incredible experience."

Will she cry?

"Of course," Nattrass said. "I haven't stopped crying."


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