The mother of all shootouts in Woolwich

Malaysian competes a month before due date

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The Independent Online

It was the morning after the marathon extravaganza of the opening ceremony that stretched beyond the night before. At 8.15am yesterday, 56 women took aim at the targets positioned in the indoor shooting hall at the Woolwich Artillery Barracks, opening fire with the first competitive shots on day one of competition at the XXX Olympic Games.

Standing near the end of the line was a 2012 OIympian with a Millennium Dome of a stomach. "Some people have said to me, 'Are you pregnant or are you just really fat?' " Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi recalled later, chuckling.

The cheery Malaysian is indeed with child. She is eight months' pregnant. Her baby is due on 6 September. "My husband and I already have a name for her," Mohd Taibi said. "She's Dayana Widyan.

"I talked to her before the competition. I said, 'Behave yourself. Be calm. Don't move so much.'

"She's a good girl. She listens to me. She kicked only three or four times. I'm lucky.

"When she grows up I will tell her she is very lucky too. She hasn't been born and she's already competed in the Olympics.

"I am doing so for the first time and I am 29."

Mother and child-to-be acquitted themselves very well in the qualifying competition for the women's 10m air rifle. They finished 34th of the 56 shooters, scoring 392 points out of a possible 400.

"I found out I was pregnant a month after qualifying for the team," Mohd Taibi reflected. "I never thought of staying at home. My husband told me, 'It is your dream to take part in the Olympic Games. Go and make your dream come true'."

There was some neat historical symmetry in her doing just that in that in event one on day one of the 2012 Olympics. After all, the star of the last London Olympics was a woman who broke down the barriers of convention.

The world frowned when Fanny Blankers-Koen left her two children at home in Amsterdam to compete in the 1948 Games. At the time no one imagined that a 30-year-old mother of two could possibly be a world-beating athlete.

Blankers-Koen became a world- beater four times over at those London Olympics, winning gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100m relay. Her quadruple success remains a feat unmatched by any other female in Olympic track-and-field history. Marion Jones won just the three gold medals in Sydney in 2000 – and she, as the world now knows, was powered by something more than natural talent.

Unknown to herself and the world at the 1948 Games, Blankers-Koen was actually three months' pregnant at the time. It was she who conceived the concept of the successful sporting mother that has become so commonplace.

It is not even unusual for women athletes to compete in the Olympic arena while with child. The German archer Connie Pfohl was six months' pregnant when she took part in the Athens Games in 2004.

The Czech shooter Katerina Emmons was four months' pregnant when she competed in Beijing four years ago. She won a gold there. She also happened to be in action yesterday, finishing fourth in the final.

For the record, the first gold of the Games was won by China's Siling Yi, with Sylwia Bogacha of Poland taking silver and Dan Yu of China bronze, while Jen McIntosh, the lone Briton, finished 36th. Not that Yi was the only winner.

Standing up the other end of the line from Mohd Taibi in qualifying was a woman wearing a headscarf. If Bahya Mansour Al Hamad was feeling a little bleary-eyed, she had every reason to be. She had carried her country's flag in the opening ceremony.

A standard-bearer in every respect, her very presence at London 2012 had been touched upon by Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, in his opening address. "For the first time in Olympic history all the participating teams will have female athletes," he said. "This is a major boost for gender equality."

When Al Hamad fired the first of her 40 shots at the target she broke new ground as the first female Qatari athlete to compete at an Olympic Games. Brunei and Saudi Arabia will also have women in their teams for the first time during the course of London 2012.

Al Hamad was only two points off making the eight-woman final, finishing 17th with a score of 395. "I'm so proud to be here," she said, tears welling up in her eyes. "It's a dream come true. I'm so happy."

Mohd Taibi was happy for her too. "Women can do whatever men can. It's not like only men can do a challenging job," she said. "Maybe people from all countries have started to open their minds."

Recipe for Olympic success

The target

On form, one silver, and maybe a bronze, as world No2 Peter Wilson should end Britain's 12-year wait for a shooting medal.

The week

After China's Yi Siling shot her way into the record books by winning the first gold medal at the Games, 10 other shooting golds can be won this week. Wilson is expected to compete in the men's double trap final on Thursday.

The wow factor

Richard Faulds, who won gold in 2000 and last Briton to bring home a shooting medal, is in his fifth Games.

Fancy that

Wilson has been coached for the Games by Sheikh Ahmad Al Maktoum, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist in men's double trap and a member of the ruling family of Dubai.