AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
LONDON: China's sharp-shooters are the team to beat at the London Olympics as Ralf Schumann of Germany and America's Kim Rhode aim to add to their collection of medals.
On home soil in 2008, the powerful Chinese took five of the 15 golds on offer, making them the top performers ahead of the United States, who still lead the overall historical medals table.
And the Chinese are in form coming into the competition which starts on Saturday, finishing top of the overall medal standings at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Series event in Munich in May.
They can boast the likes of Guo Wenjun and Chen Ying, defending Olympic champions in the women's 10m air pistol and the 25m pistol.
But that pair will face a tough challenge from Ukraine ace Olena Kostevych, the 10m air pistol champion at Athens 2004, who won both titles at the ISSF world cup event in Milan, also in May.
Germany's crack shot Schumann started his impressive Olympic medal haul when he took silver at his first Games in Seoul in 1988, collecting three golds since and another silver in Beijing.
His appearance in the 25m rapid fire pistol event at London's Royal Artillery Barracks, at the age of 50, marks his seventh Olympic Games.
Japan's Tomoyuki Matsuda, dual world champion in the men's 10m air pistol and 50m pistol, will look for double gold but faces a stiff challenge from South Korea's Jin Jong-Oh, who took 50m pistol gold in Beijing.
In the men's rifle events, Italy's Niccolo Campriani could sweep all the gold medals on offer but Chinese marksman Zhu Qinan, who won gold in 2004 and silver in 2008 in the men's 10m air rifle, is expected to put up a fierce fight.
And hundreds of millions of Indians will be backing bespectacled sure-shot Abhinav Bindra, whose 10m air rifle win in Beijing was his country's first ever individual Olympic gold.
Husband and wife combination Matt Emmons of the United States, and Katerina Emmons, who shoots for the Czech Republic and won women's 10m air rifle gold in Beijing, are keen to win gold together in London.
Matt Emmons, who won gold in the 50m rifle prone at Athens 2004, will be looking to atone for two heartbreaking failures in the 50m rifle three positions.
In both 2004 and 2008, Emmons, who returned to the sport after suffering thyroid cancer in 2010, blew his chance for gold on the last shot.
Emmons said he had worked with a sports psychologist for more than a decade, adding: "I'm learning so much every time these things happen, every Olympics, every competition. I'm a much smarter guy than I was."
In the women's rifle events China's Du Li, chasing her third consecutive Olympic gold, will compete in the women's 50m rifle three positions.
Malaysia's Nur Suryani Mohamad Taibi meanwhile is contesting the women's 10m air rifle despite being more than eight months' pregnant.
In the shotgun events, America's Rhode, 33, seeking her an American-record fifth straight medal and her third gold overall, was forced to miss her team's training camp in Denmark due to flight cancellations.
Rhode said her chance to make history was in the back of her mind as she prepares for women's skeet and women's trap.
"There's a certain added element of pressure when you come to an event like the Olympics to begin with. When you add in the achievements there's an element of pressure," she said.
"However, as it's my fifth I'm feeling very comfortable with it."
Home fans are counting on Peter Wilson, who set a new world record in the men's double trap in Arizona in March, hitting 198 out of 200 targets.
Nearly 400 competitors will shoot for gold in London, aiming at stationary targets in a range in the rifle and pistol events, and at moving targets in the shotgun events. There are nine men's events and six for women.