Sydney 2000 Olympic medal memories stir Annemarie’s ambitions
By Greg Campbell
Twenty years after Annemarie Forder’s shock women’s 10m Air Pistol bronze medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, her memories remain vivid and the emotions quickly come swirling back.
On the day Michael Diamond cemented his place as one of the greatest ever men’s trap athletes with a second successive Olympic gold medal, Forder secured her own slice of history when becoming Australia’s youngest ever Olympic Shooting medallist and Australia’s second Pistol medallist after Patti Dench first climbed onto the podium at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
At just 22 years of age at the time, Forder was already an Olympian after winning a wild card entry to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games where she finished a credible 23rd on debut alongside her Pistol team-mates Annette Woodward and Carol Tomcala.
“To get selected was a huge surprise and a huge honour,” said Forder.
Her Sydney 2000 medal winning performance was viewed by many as a pleasant shock, but to those in the Australian Shooting community, it was within her reach.
Forder arrived at the Sydney Games having captured two gold medals in the individual 10m Air Pistol and 10m Air Pistol Teams event at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
And she was also the 1998 World Junior 10m Air Pistol silver medallist behind Viktoria Chaika from Belarus when she thought the gold medal was within her grasp.
Her silver medal winning performance was even more meritorious as two days prior to the World Junior Championship, Forder tripped and fell, gashing a knee and grazing her hands.
“As awesome as that was to get a silver medal at a World Championship, it was also very disappointing at the same time. I wanted to be the junior World Champion. It was brutal at the time. It hurt a lot,” she said.
“Having been so close is one of those things which makes you a better athlete. You turn those disappointments into accomplishments down the track,” she added.
While she was rising quickly through the world Pistol ranks, her path to the Sydney Olympics was rocky with more accident-ridden pot-holes along the way.
She fractured an ankle and broke a hand in 1999 before jamming a hand in a car door six months prior to the Games.
Three weeks before the Games began, she was involved in a car accident on the Gold Coast, when a passenger, which missed a turn and slammed into a telegraph pole.
Then her loving grandmother Norma Boyanton passed away five days before the Games, delaying her arrival into the Athletes Village until late on the eve of the Opening Ceremony.
Team management concluded Forder needed a psychological and emotional boost before competing two days after Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic Cauldron and allowed her to march in the Opening Ceremony instead of resting ahead of her event.
“My big goal was to get into the final. I knew that I could make the final if I shot well,” said Forder.
In the qualifying round, Forder qualified in fifth place for the final after registering a score of 385 – five points behind China’s Tao Luna, who equalled the Olympic record with a tally of 390.
“I was excited and quietly confident. I’ve always shot good finals and I was really confident in my ability to do that. Obviously, the nerves were there,” she said.
“I went and had a quick chat with Michael (Diamond) and Russell (Mark) came into the team room and they said ‘look mate, you know what you are doing. You got yourself here, just go out and enjoy it’”, she recalled.
In the final, Forder borrowed a hat to hide the glare of the bright television spotlights and began with a nervous low-scoring first shot. But she quickly found her rhythm and peeled off four successive scores in the tens before a score in the low eights rocked her momentum.
With two shots remaining, Forder sat in sixth position and turned to the crowd and urged them to find their voices and cheer her home. Not only did the crowd respond, but so too did Forder, and she used the crowd’s energy and fired final shots of 10.4 and 10.5 to climb into the bronze medal position.
The Russian world record holder, Svetlana Smirnova, needed a score of 9.6 or better with her final shot to deny Forder third place, but could only manage a 9.2.
“I was just in shock. I put my gun down and took my glasses off. Then I turned around and looked up to the grandstand and everyone was going bezerk. I saw my team and everyone jumping around,” said Forder.
“I was over the moon. I am getting goose bumps as we speak,” she added. “Everything fell into place fortunately for me after my little hiccup.”
Qualifying third for the final in Sydney was Australia’s Tokyo Olympian, Dina Aspandiyarova, who was competing for her native Kazakhstan. Aspandiyarova ultimately finished fifth in the final.
Forder won a pair of bronze medals in the individual 10m Air Pistol and 10m Air Pistol \Teams event at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
One of her team-mates at the Manchester Commonwealth Games was Lalita Yauhleuskaya who won a 25m Sports Pistol bronze medal for Belarus at the Sydney Olympics. Her son, Sergei Evglevski, will represent Australia at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Sadly, Sydney 2000 was Forder’s last Olympics because of a debilitating neck injury primarily caused by her right arm and left dominant eye shooting style which pinched the C2 and C3 vertebrae in her neck.
This pinching sent nerve pains shooting down her right arm and despite a maintenance program, cortisone injections and having a year off after the Sydney Olympics, the injury did not sufficiently heal, and she was forced to retire six months prior to the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“I was told to stop shooting otherwise I could potentially become paralysed. That abruptly ended my shooting career,” she said.
But 16 years after retiring and now with a medical all-clear, Forder is considering a comeback and is eyeing selection for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I still have unfinished business,” said Forder, who is a member at Gold Coast Pistol Club and the Brisbane International Pistol Club.
“It is one thing to get a medal. It is a completely different world to be an Olympic champion and that’s my dream, that’s my goal, that’s my drive. It was since I was a little kid,” she said.
“I love the sport. I’ve always enjoyed doing it and I certainly do miss it a helluva lot.”
Forder will be 46 years of age by the Paris Games and looks to Dench and Woodward as inspiration.
“Patti Dench was 52 in Los Angeles and Annette Woodward was 56 in Atlanta, and I’m only 42,” she said.
And as Forder proved at the Sydney Olympics, nothing is beyond her.