No 16: Wei Ning

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 July, 2008, 12:00am

Name: Wei Ning

Date of Birth: August 5, 1982 in Laizhou, Shandong province

Entry for Beijing: Women's skeet shooting

Career highlights: Silver medal, Athens Olympics; Winner, 2003 World Championships; Winner, 2001 and 2002 World Cup finals

Pin-up sharpshooter Wei Ning will be aiming to recapture the magic of 1992 when her mentor, Zhang Shan, won China's first skeet gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics.

The 26-year-old Wei narrowly missed the gold medal in Athens four years ago with a silver finish, but Wei is confident she can go one better this time around.

'To turn the silver into gold will be a huge mission for me,' Wei said during the Beijing stop of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup series in April. 'China has waited for 16 years to see the second skeet gold, so I want to follow in Zhang's footsteps and bring fans a surprise.'

A true national hero who is up there with NBA star Yao Ming and volleyball player Lang Ping in the popularity stakes, Zhang won China a gold medal in 1992 when she beat both male and female opponents to win the skeet competition. She was the only women to win a medal in the mixed event from 1972 to 1992.

The developing Wei beat Zhang in the ISSF Beijing event to win the Olympic berth but said Zhang was her motivation and her idol.

'Thousands of kids fell in love with skeet shooting after watching Zhang win the gold in 1992, and I was one of them,' Wei said. 'She was so unbelievable because she even beat male rivals to win at her age. It's a dream come true to become her teammate.'

Wei first made a name for herself in 2001 when she won the World Cup final at the age of 19. She stepped up to pocket a gold at the world championships in 2003 before clinching a silver medal in Athens.

The shooter has been on a sizzling run since the Athens Games, bagging nine World Cup titles. Her latest win was at the Olympic Shooting Range in April.

Wei is cautiously optimistic about a repeat performance in August. 'You never know who is going to win the gold until you fire the last shot, that's the excitement of skeet,' Wei said. 'So I am not going to predict the results in Beijing. I am sure everybody in the final has what it takes to win the gold medal. For me, I just want to do my best.'

Her coach, though, has faith in her. 'Wei is a very competitive shooter, she has solid skills and she always performs at her best level at international competitions,' said Zhang Wenjie. 'Her only problem is that she can have too much passion sometimes, so if she stays calm I think she is capable of winning the gold medal this time.'