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Paralympic encyclopedia Kosmala expects to continue her glory

Taking a glimpse at the screen that showed her score, the 66-year-old Australian shooter on wheelchair turned around, poker-faced.

Her coach hurried to walk over and help Libby Kosmala take off her green leather shooting suit - she had been exhausted by the 135-minute qualification round of women's 50-meter sport rifle three positions event.

"I didn't do quite well today," the elderly lady appeared dejected. Oldest shooter to the Beijing Paralympics, she was ranked ninth in the qualification with 556 points, a near miss from the final. However, the fact that Kosmala could appear in her tenth Paralymic itself was already a milestone.

Into sports

Born with disability in Adelaide of south Australia in 1942, the lady saw her life changed at the age of 20. "I was visiting someone in a hospital, while another man said to me, 'why not try sports'," she recalled.

The man told her that there were lots of disabled people like her played together each Saturday.

"I thought, well, maybe I could meet some boy," Kosmala said jokingly. It was quite an interesting experience for the lady. At first she tried javelin, but was hit later. "That's too dangerous," she soon gave up.

Then she tried discus, but hit someone else on the head. "I will never do that anymore," she cried, before a boy, who she later found out to be living near her home, said, "if you don't come next Saturday, I will pick you up from home."

However, it turned out that she didn't need him to pick her up. She started doing sports ever since. Four years later, the lady went to a domestic competition representing her state, and clinched medals in every sport she competed: swimming, archery, wheelchair racing and fencing.

Kosmala's getting involved in shooting was quite by chance. "When I was practicing archery one day, a boy came over and said 'come with me, let's do shooting'," she recalled. Her reply was "no".

But when she picked up a rifle and fired in the shooting range, she easily scored a 10 point.

The excited newcomer aimed for a while and fired again. Another 10. "People said I was born to be a shooter, and hence I started," she said. Then the story was simple: "if you keep winning, you will enjoy."

Home, sweet home

The versatile Aussie cut a figure in the Paralympic arena in 1972, when she was ranked fifth in backstroke and fourth in pentathlon. A ten-time Paralympian, the granny who was called encyclopedia by some wrapped nine shooting gold, but the one in 1976 she cherished most.

"It was the first time I went to Paralympics with my husband," she said. Kosmala had always wished to find a husband who was disabled as well. Her encounter with her husband Stan was just like the plot of a fiction. "I met him in a wheelchair racing competition," she grinned, "I looked at the way he moved and said to myself 'this is the man I am going to marry'." In 1976, they went to Toranto as engaged couple. After the event, they got married in December.

Kosmala rated the 1988 Seoul Paralympics as a highlight because Stan won a gold medal in lawn bowls and she took four gold medals in shooting. However, for as long as 20 years, Stan didn't practice shooting. "We have two children and family is not a good place for shooting," said the wife. Her husband only started shooting in 1997 under her suggestion. Talking about her two sons, Kosmala, like all the doting mothers, appeared quite proud.

"My Luke is 30 and Jame is 26," she said. James was an ambulance officer with a girl friend, while Luke, who still lived with them was a landscape designer.

"He designs for helping the disabled," said mother, admitting that disability of she and her husband did affect much in their children's growth. But unlike their parents, the children didn't compete in sport events, although they like to play golf and tennis.

"They are not keen in getting to the top," the granny smiled. Apart from shooting, the active Kosmala worked for public relations in a charity namely Spina Bifida, which was aimed to help people injured at birth. "I know how it was like and I hope that they could live a better life," she said.

Shooter forever

Kosmala said she came to the Beijing Paralympics to enjoy the competition, but this didn't mean that medals were not important. "Competition is to get medals," she said, "medals are a bonus. If you can get one, you are lucky."

On Sunday, the veteran shooter got a good chance to win, as she was ranked second among all finalists. But the quick shooter blow away the chance by having her scores fluctuating, which which eventually dragged her to the fourth place. After the competition, she had regret written on her wrinkled face. "It was so close, so close..." she nagged, shaking her head.

Kosmala admitted that she was "a little bit tired", as could be seen from the qualification, in which she managed to chalk up 97, 100 and 99 points in the first three ten-shot series. But in the last series, she just achieved a moderate 94.

Recognizing that it was the first final that she did at the Paralympics in more than two decades, however, she noted that result was not bad. In her coach's eyes, Kosmala is a diligent shooter. "It has been fantastic shooting at her age and she is still improving in the last two years," said Miro Sipek.

Sipek, or in fact all her teammates know that the granny would shoot for as long as she could, thus going to the London Paralympics four years later is something quite possible, although before that, she still has two competition this week.

BEIJING,

Sept. 10 (Xinhua)

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