Canada's flag bearer Nattrass will soak up every moment of opening ceremonies
Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014 11:30 am
GLASGOW, Scotland - When Susan Nattrass walks into a competition venue these days, she pauses to take a good look around, and composes a mental picture.
"And I take a lot of photos. Because I want to have that memory," Nattrass said.
The 63-year-old trap shooter will carry Canada's flag into the opening ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday, and she plans to soak up every moment.
After six Olympic Games, five Pan American Games and now five Commonwealth Games, the world's most decorated trap shooter can't predict which competitive appearance will be her last.
"I have a German friend who retired and came to Munich for a World Cup to see me and she said I'll be in my wheelchair and near my grave and I'll still be out competing," Nattrass said, laughing.
The seven-time world champion will lead a team of 265 athletes — Canada's largest Commonwealth contingent in a non-home Games — into Celtic Park for the opening ceremonies.
She's mixed and mingled with many athletes in the village, but admits some of the younger ones don't know who she is, and there are some even in shooting who aren't aware of what she's done for women in her sport.
"I don't think (the young athletes) know my story. . . unless they have a coach who tells them. Some know, some don't," she shrugged.
Nattrass, who learned the sport from her dad Floyd when she was just 12, became the first female shooter to compete in the Olympics in 1976 in Montreal. She finished 25th in the otherwise all-male field.
She broke the gender barrier again in 1990 in Auckland, N.Z., when she became the first female to compete at the Commonwealth Games. Again, she was the only woman in an all-male field.
Nattrass tirelessly lobbied the IOC to include women's trap and skeet events in the Olympics, and they were finally added to the Olympic program in Sydney in 2000.
She was successful again when she lobbied the Commonwealth Games Federation to include women's shotgun events — they made their Commonwealth debut in 2002 in Manchester.
Nattrass is a member of the Order of Canada and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. A measure of her endurance: she won her first world title in 1981 and her most recent in 2006 — 25 years apart. Her best Olympic finish was sixth in 2004.
Nattrass believes this will be her final Commonwealth Games. She makes "silly little mistakes" these days, and chalks it up to her age.
"I think it's almost like trying too hard. It's being excited, instead of taking that split second to make sure I see the target, I just go," she said.
"Before I would have been cool and waited and then gone. Because the target moves about 65 miles an hour so you think you need to go right away but you don't. You need to see it and then go."
In trap, shooters raise their shotguns before calling for a target which is launched from 76 metres away. They can fire two shots per target.
Nattrass plans to try to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic team.
"But if I don't do it, I think I probably will retire. Cynthia (Meyer, longtime teammate and fellow trap shooter) doesn't believe me. She said that she doubts that I'll retire," she said, laughing.
Nattrass, who was born in Medicine Hat, Alta., vows to remain involved in the sport, and is very involved in coaching now.
She's also medical researcher who owns and runs the Puget Sound Osteoporosis Center, where she studies the effects of aging in bones on active women.
Wednesday's opening ceremonies won't be Nattrass's first spin around a stadium with a flag. She carried Canada's flag into the opening of the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro and went on to win gold.
"I still have Rio imprinted in my mind, carrying in the flag, that was so cool, and the music and everything. It was such an exciting time," she said.
Ken Pereira, the former captain of the men's field hockey team, carried Canada's flag into the Commonwealth Games opening four years ago in New Delhi.
The ceremonies at the stadium that is normally home to Celtic FC soccer club will feature Scottish rocker Rod Stewart and singer Susan Boyle, who rocketed to fame after her appearance on "Britain's Got Talent."
The festive night originally planned to feature the live demolition of five of Glasgow's most iconic apartment tower blocks, the Red Road flats. The massive explosion was to be beamed into the Celtic Park ceremony, which would commemorate the rejuvenation of the city.
The plans were scrapped after fierce opposition that included an online petition signed by thousands of people.